Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has acquired exclusive licensing rights to the native membrane protein stabilization technology of Calixar, the French biotech said today, through a collaboration whose value was not disclosed.

The companies plan to conduct research and discovery of antibodies against an undisclosed target in various unspecified therapeutic fields, Calixar said.

Calixar’s technology is designed to preserve the original structure and function of membrane proteins such as GPCRs, ion channels, transporters, receptors, anchors, and viral proteins.

While such membrane proteins account for more than 60% of all therapeutic targets, according to Calixar, the ability of drug developers to use such proteins is hampered by the difficulty of producing and isolating them in a highly pure form, without point mutations or deletions. As a result, many companies use bypass methods ranging from refolding, to mutagenesis, to fewer pure scaffold systems than needed.

Rather than use deletions or point mutations, Calixar said, its process aims to conserve the functional and structural integrity of targets and/or antigens, by modifying the chemical environment in order to adapt it to the protein or antigen chemistry. Calixar’s tools and technologies are designed to enable deorphanization, identification, expression, extraction, purification, stabilization, structural functional characterization, and crystallization of membrane proteins, as well as detergent quantification.

A key milestone

“This agreement is a key milestone for our collaboration with Regeneron as well as for our broader approach of using the best innovations to achieve the best biochemistry,” Calixar chairman and CEO Emmanuel Dejean, PhD, said in a statement.

Regeneron’s protein-focused drug discovery efforts have applied its VelociSuite® technology platforms to develop treatment candidates: “Our discovery platforms are designed to identify specific proteins of therapeutic interest for a particular disease or cell type and validate these targets through high-throughput production of genetically modified mice using our VelociGene® technology to understand the role of these proteins in normal physiology, as well as in models of disease,” Regeneron stated in its Form 10-K annual report for 2018.

“Our human antibody technology (VelocImmune) and cell line expression technologies (VelociMab®) may then be utilized to discover and produce new product candidates directed against the disease target. Our antibody product candidates currently in clinical trials were developed using VelocImmune,” Regeneron added.

Dejean added that the collaboration with Regeneron “confirms the biopharma industry’s focus on fully-native, functional therapeutic targets for the development of high-quality antibodies and lead candidates with the optimal chance of becoming future blockbusters that address unmet medical needs.”

Dejean co-founded Calixar in 2011 with Pierre Falson, research director at the French National Research Center. A year later, the company led discovery and isolation of new targets for leptospirosis vaccine development as a partner in the COVALEPT project with Sanofi.

In 2017, Calixar and AstraZeneca researchers published a study in Scientific Reports detailing how they used calixarene-based detergent to solubilize and purify full-length non-aggregated and homogenous potassium chloride co-transporter KCC2, which has been shown to play a critical role in neurological diseases that include brain trauma, epilepsies, autism, and schizophrenia.

Calixar is headquartered in Lyon, France, with a joint research lab in Avignon, France; and offices in Cambridge, MA, and Tokyo. Calixar’s first investor was INP Enterprise, and the company has completed funding rounds of €0.87 million ($0.97 million) in 2012, and a second round of €1 million ($1.1 million) three years later.

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