Intercell acquires monoclonal antibody technology from Cytos Biotechnology

8 June 2010

Intercell AG (VSE: ICLL) has announced that it will acquire Cytos Biotechnology Ltd's platform technology for monoclonal antibody discovery. The technology is based on expression cloning of monoclonal antibodies from human B-cells and enables the identification of anti-infective antibodies to prevent and treat infectious diseases.

Under the agreed terms Intercell will pay 15 million to Cytos. Intercell will own certain unpartnered monoclonal antibody assets, including promising pre-clinical anti-infective antibody candidates discovered by Cytos.

The key scientists, who have very successfully developed the technology at Cytos, will be employed by Intercell. The antibody technology complements Intercell's technology platforms and opens novel medically and commercially relevant applications for Intercell's Antigen Identification Program (AIP).

The AIP has delivered promising vaccine candidates against Staphylococcus aureus (Phase II/III) and Pneumococcus (Phase I) infections, among others, and has also been the basis for partnerships in the antibody field with Merck & Co. and Kyowa Hakko Kirin in these indications, respectively.

In its future antibody discovery activities Intercell will focus on medically and commercially attractive AIP®derived disease targets including Group B Streptococcus and bacteria involved in hospital acquired infections.

“Cytos' outstanding antibody technology complements our innovative R&D technology platform and enables pipeline progression within our existing portfolio”, stated Gerd Zettlmeissl, Chief Executive Officer of Intercell.

Wolfgang Renner, CEO of Cytos, commented: “Intercell, as a leading anti-infective company, is ideally positioned through its Antigen Identification Program (AIP), to capture the full value of our monoclonal antibody discovery platform. We are very glad that our technology will support Intercell in discovering important new monoclonal antibodies to combat infectious diseases.”

Monoclonal antibodies form one of the fastest growing segments of the pharmaceutical industry. The global monoclonal antibodies market was valued at US$27.4bn in 2008, indicating a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of almost 30% between 2000 and 2008.

”Antibodies can be extremely effective for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. For example, the increasing rate of antibiotic resistance among certain types of nosocomial pathogens makes it extremely difficult to control hospital acquired infectious diseases in critical situations. Anti-infective antibodies, well known in the medical arena before the advent of antibiotic treatments, have experienced a comeback and monoclonal antibody products are expected to contribute to the control of severe infections that otherwise might be untreatable in the future”, explained Eszter Nagy, Senior Vice President Research at Intercell.

Monoclonal antibodies

Antibodies are found in every human being. These molecules are essential to life, and play a very important role in the immune system. Each person has approximately one to two million different antibodies continuously flowing throughout the bloodstream, patrolling day and night to fight infections and diseases in their human host. Antibodies are proteins with special shapes that recognize and bind to foreign substances — an antigen — surrounding them so that scavenger cells can destroy them and flush them out of the body.

Monoclonal antibodies are modelled on natural antibodies. They are specialized, targeted antibodies which are produced synthetically by means of biotechnological processes. What is special about these is that they are able to activate the body’s natural defence mechanisms against the disease.

Antigen Identification Program (AIP)

The design and development of novel subunit vaccines is highly dependent on the identification and characterization of the appropriate antigens. Intercell has successfully identified and refined a large number of relevant and protective antigens for several bacterial pathogens mostly through its Antigen Identification Program (AIP).

Selected antibodies, which are derived from infected or healthy exposed individuals and therefore directly mirror the presence, accessibility, and antigenicity of relevant proteins from the particular microorganism in its human host are used in a proprietary screening process. Through AIP, Intercell's team discovers antigens that are believed to induce the most protective response from the human immune system, thus providing a viable basis for the development of novel and more powerful prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines, as well as antibody treatments.

AIP has successfully been applied to identify a large number of novel antigens from several pathogenic organisms including Staphylococcus aureus and epidermidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus agalactiae and pyogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Borrelia spp., ETEC, Shigella, Campylobacter jejuni, non-typable Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis.

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