June 04, 2020
Monza and Roma (Italy) – Rottapharm Biotech and Takis, two Italian biotech companies, announced their collaboration agreement for the joint development of Takis’ proprietary vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 infection, named COVID-eVax.
Rottapharm Biotech will provide Takis with operational support, thanks to its long-standing experience in developing innovative pharmaceutical products, and with the financial resources needed to complete Phase I/II clinical trials. The first 3 million Euro have already been allocated to ongoing activities.
Different vaccine technology platforms are under development against the new Coronavirus. Takis’ and Rottapharm Biotech’s approach is DNA-based: a fragment of DNA is injected into the muscle and promotes the synthesis of a portion of the viral “Spike” protein, stimulating a strong immune response which prevents the infection. The process efficiency is improved by electroporation, which favours DNA transfer through the cell membrane by using light and short electrical pulses, in a way that is simple, fast and safe. In this respect, Takis has a long-standing collaboration with IGEA, another Italian company whose electroporator device is already available in more than 200 hospitals across Europe. The three companies are working together to develop a new portable electroporation system for a wider and widespread use.
Animal studies showed a strong immunological response, eliciting both neutralizing antibodies and T-cell immunity. The development plan now includes the completion of preclinical studies and GMP manufacturing of the first vaccine batch. The first clinical study will start over the next fall.
“The partnership is already up and running”, commented Lucio Rovati, President and Chief Scientific Officer at Rottapharm Biotech, “We immediately made available to Takis not only the capital for the first studies, but above all the technical support of our scientific managers, creating a team with high skills”. Dr. Rovati then added: “In agreement with the international scientific community, we believe it is of great importance to have several vaccines available based on diverse technology platforms, in order to better prevent a possible return of the emergency”.
“We are thrilled about this collaboration with Rottapharm Biotech” Luigi Aurisicchio, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer at Takis, said. “This synergistic opportunity will give new incentives to this ambitious project. We hope that this collaboration will foster other public and private collaborations to accelerate this development, especially for the vaccine large-scale production.”
The technology platform in development has many advantages, including the possibility of repeated administration to increase and maintain the immune system response, and of being easily adaptable in case of mutation of the virus genetic code over time.
About Rottapharm Biotech
Rottapharm Biotech is a research company dedicated to the development of innovative drugs. Research and development expertise includes medicinal chemistry for small molecules, a proprietary technology platform for the generation and selection of new monoclonal antibodies, skills in the development of other biological treatments and advanced therapies, new molecular target validation, the pharmacological, pharmacokinetic, toxicological and pharmaceutical development characterization of new drug candidates, the design and conduct of innovative clinical trials. The company experience is focused on different therapeutic areas, including rheumatology (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), pain and inflammation, immuno-modulation and immuno-oncology. The strategy is to invest and seek alliances on innovative projects of other biotech companies or university spin-offs, as well as the development of its advanced pipeline in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies.
Takis is a biotechnology company founded by a group of scientists from Merck Research Laboratories (MRL). The group has more than 15 years of experience and a proven track record in the discovery of drugs in oncology and it is recognized for the invention and development of several innovative technologies. One of Takis’ main field of expertise is the electroporation, a technology applicable to a variety of clinical uses, from vaccine development to somatic gene therapy. Takis’s pipeline includes four cancer vaccine candidates based on its proprietary technology. Takis is also actively involved in the generation of humanized monoclonal antibodies for use in oncology and in infectious diseases.