Vaccinated who? Just over a year after closing a more than $ 700 million deal with Roche for its neo-antigen cancer vaccine, Norwegian biotech has attracted another Big Pharma partner with deep pockets – and with it, a new name and a new facelift.
Regeneron is betting nearly $ 1 billion on five new vaccine programs from Vaccibody, now called Nykode Therapeutics. The deal will double Nykode’s current pipeline, adding three cancer and two infectious disease programs.
CEO Michael Engsig maintains that the new name and logo “signify a new phase of growth and development”.
“We are continuing our exciting transformation from a two-asset-driven company to a full-fledged platform biotechnology company,” he said in a statement. “Over the past year, we have increased the number of talented colleagues, made significant additions to our leadership team, invested strategically and developed internationally. This positive development, combined with our future ambitions, inspired the need to revisit our brand.
Regeneron is spending $ 30 million initially, plus a capital investment of $ 20 million and over $ 875 million in biobucks to collaborate on the five programs, which will combine Nykode’s vaccine platform with the expertise of selection of Regeneron and VelociSuite antigens in vivo models. Last October, Agnete Fredriksen, head of innovation and strategy at Nykode (formerly CSO of Vaccibody), said cancer vaccine development was largely limited by the ability to effectively present antigens – molecules that induce an immune response – to the immune system. She thinks Regeneron can help her.
“Regeneron has generated unique expertise in the selection and validation of immunogenic antigens from a thorough analysis of patient material,” Fredriksen said in a statement Tuesday.
Nykode is responsible for vaccine generation and characterization, and product supply up to Phase I. But Regeneron foots the bill for research, clinical, regulatory, manufacturing and marketing activities.
This won’t be Engsig’s first Big Pharma rodeo. Last October, he partnered with Roche to develop a personalized VB10.NEO vaccine candidate in the United States and Europe. This candidate is still in Phase I with Genentech for locally advanced metastatic tumors, and in Phase II with Genentech and Nektar for melanoma, cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney and head and neck.
We’re still waiting to see data from these programs – but two years ago, Vaccibody read what he said was “promising clinical data that showed this ability to increase a strong response of neo-specific T cells. antigens against the majority of epitopes, “Engsig said. The company claims that clinical responses were seen in 50% of patients regardless of tumor type.
Nykode also recently launched its Covid-19 candidate into the clinic and is awaiting interim phase II data for its HPV16 positive cervical cancer program in the first half of next year.
This won’t be Regeneron’s first dive into cancer vaccines. Last August, the company embarked on a Phase II study combining its PD-1 Libtayo with BioNTech’s candidate FixVac in a cashless alliance.
And the new name? This draws on Nykode’s Norwegian roots, Engsig said, resulting in “new code.”