Revolution via resolution: AbbVie pays $48M for OSE's preclinical chronic inflammation drug

AbbVie is talkin’ bout a resolution. The Big Pharma has bet $48 million on OSE Immunotherapeutics’ antibody platform, handing the biotech the upfront fee and dangling another $665 million in milestones for global rights to a novel approach to chronic inflammation. 

Inflammation drives tissue damage and scarring in patients with chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Conventionally, biopharma companies seek to prevent harm to tissue by developing drugs that block pro-inflammatory pathways. OSE’s anti-ChemR23 monoclonal antibody comes at the problem from a different angle.

The candidate, code-named OSE-230, is designed to resolve, rather than block, inflammation. In healthy individuals, the inflammation process concludes with the restoration of tissue integrity and the return to normal function. When that fails to happen, people develop chronic inflammation.

ChemR23, a G-protein coupled receptor, is expressed by various immune cells and plays a role in starting and ending inflammation. In preclinical tests, OSE has shown targeting ChemR23 affects the activity of macrophages and neutrophils in ways that may accelerate the resolution of acute inflammation. 

AbbVie sees promise in the approach and has secured the global rights to OSE-230. In a statement, Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., AbbVie’s global head of discovery research, called ChemR23 agonism “a novel mechanism-of-action to treat chronic inflammation” and outlined plans to apply the company’s expertise in immunology to the development of OSE-230.

Shares in OSE jumped 60% to above 5 euros ($5.40) in early trading in Paris. The deal provides external validation of an idea that OSE has been working on for years. OSE-230 is the most advanced candidate from OSE’s “pro-resolutive antibody platform,” but, with the biotech focused on assets such as its late-phase cancer vaccine Tedopi, it has remained stuck in the preclinical pipeline.

OSE published data from inflammatory preclinical and ex vivo human models in 2020. The biotech linked (PDF) the antibody to the resolution of inflammation in models of chronic colitis, Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. OSE published a Science Advances paper about its work in chronic colitis the next year and followed up with an abstract about the effect of the antibody on neutrophil recruitment in 2023. 

The early-stage nature of OSE-230 suits AbbVie just fine. On an earnings call early this month, Robert Michael, who will become AbbVie CEO in July, said the company is focused on finding assets to “drive growth in the next decade.” That means “early-stage opportunities, which are typically smaller-sized deals,” Michael said, and, in immunology, “new mechanisms of action that can elevate standard of care.”