Celgene has made an undisclosed equity investment in Anokion and is paying the Swiss autoimmune disease therapeutics firm $45 million upfront as part of an exclusive global research and strategic collaboration to develop tolerance-inducing therapeutics for autoimmune diseases. The deal gives Celgene the exclusive right to acquire Anokion outright at specified option exercise points, prior to which the latter will retain full control of its R&D programs. Anokion could also receive $10 million in preclinical milestones. 

Anokion was spun out from Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), to leverage an antigen-specific immune tolerance platform for the development of therapeutics against autoimmune diseases, and potentially to reduce the immunogenicity of therapeutic proteins. The technology effectively prompts the immune system to recognize engineered proteins as “self” proteins, by harnessing the body’s natural tolerance to apoptotic or aging cells. The process involves engineering antigens relevant to a broad range of autoimmune disorders to bind the erythrocyte-specific surface protein glycophorin A. When the erythrocytes undergo apoptosis, the immune system recognizes the attached antigens and elicits a tolerogenic immune response. Anokion is developing a liver-targeted tolerance approach in parallel through which engineered antigens attach to liver cells, which also trigger a tolerogenic response.

Rupert Vessey, Ph.D., evp and president of research and early development at Celgene, commented, “We are very pleased to enter into this collaboration with Anokion, as we believe their novel approaches to harnessing the natural, tolerogenic processes of the immune system have the potential to translate into a new treatment paradigm for a broad array of autoimmune disorders.”

During June 2015, Anokion and Astellas established a new company, Kanyos Bio, as part of a potentially $760 million collaboration agreement to leverage the Anokion platform for the development of products targeting celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Anokion closed its $37.5 million Series A financing in May 2014.

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