Back in 2016, Pfizer led a $4 million round for AnTolRx to fund the research and development of its antigen-specific immune tolerance treatment for diabetes. Now, the Big Pharma is pulling the trigger on an option to take AnTolRx’s lead candidate forward, in exchange for the usual upfront, milestone and royalty payments, all undisclosed.
“We are delighted to confirm that the discovery phase of the program at AnTolRx has transitioned successfully to Pfizer for further development of our antigen-specific immunotherapy for Type 1 diabetes," said AnTolRx CEO Mark Carthy, in a statement.
AnTolRx’s work is based on the immunoregulatory research of Francisco Quintana, a professor of neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the company’s scientific cofounder. Its pipeline comprises nanoparticle therapeutics focused on immune tolerance rather than immune suppression. AnTolRx is targeting a range of autoimmune ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis, as well as Type 1 diabetes.
The nanotechnology is designed to bring about immune tolerance to specific self-antigens—in the case of diabetes, a tolerance-inducing treatment could eliminate immune attacks on beta cells in the pancreas. And since it is antigen-specific, the technology is expected to avoid the side effects of systemic immunosuppression.
"There is an urgent need for disease-modifying Type 1 diabetes immunotherapies to slow down the autoimmune process and delay or block progression to symptomatic insulin-dependent diabetes," said JDRF President and CEO Derek Rapp.
Pfizer isn’t the only Big Pharma that has gotten into immune tolerance. In 2017, both Eli Lilly and Novartis struck deals to at least prep an entry into the space. Lilly bagged an option from Evotec’s spinout Topas Therapeutics on immune tolerance drugs that have been applied in conditions including multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. And Novartis secured the worldwide rights to Parvus Therapeutics’ Navacims nanomedicine tech, specifically for Type 1 diabetes patients.