Sanofi snaps up Origimm for early-phase acne vaccine, opening new front in mRNA strategy

Sanofi sees an mRNA platform as key to unlocking the potential of Origimm’s work. (Sanofi)

Sanofi is adding another thread to its mRNA strategy. Having already bagged Translate Bio’s mRNA platform, Sanofi is now snapping up Origimm Biotechnology to land a therapeutic acne vaccine it plans to pair with the red-hot technology.

Origimm’s lead prospect, ORI-001, is a therapeutic vaccine candidate for acne based on recombinant proteins that recently entered the clinic. Sanofi is taking that vaccine forward but is already looking beyond it to follow-up mRNA candidates. The plan is to develop additional antigen versions and use the mRNA platform in a phase 1/2 trial that is slated to start in 2023.

Sanofi sees the mRNA platform as key to unlocking the potential of Origimm’s work. The privately owned Austrian biotech has built on research into the role Cutibacterium acnes is thought to play in acne, working to control the growth of the bacterium and thereby stop it from damaging the skin.

Origimm has used reverse functional screening to find protective antigens and therapeutic targets. In doing so, Origimm thinks it can select the most effective active ingredients for preventing or treating skin diseases. The work caught the attention of Sanofi. 

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“The acquisition of Origimm further broadens our vaccines R&D pipeline with a first vaccine candidate against acne, a high medical need for millions of teenagers and adults,” Thomas Triomphe, global head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement. “Welcoming Origimm within Sanofi expands our area of expertise by bringing extensive know-how in the field of skin microbiome and skin immunology.”

Sanofi has a shot at improving treatment of a common condition with limited options. Isotretinoin, the oral drug also known as Accutane, can be effective in acne but comes with side effects that limit use. Led by CEO Sanja Selak, Ph.D., formerly of Valneva, Origimm has worked for close to a decade to provide a better option. 

Neither company has disclosed the terms of the deal. Origimm kept a fairly low profile over its nine-year history, disclosing a series A financing in 2016 without revealing the size of the round, and additional cash from an Austrian funding scheme in 2018, again without stating the amount. The biotech used the cash to advance ORI-001, which entered preliminary clinical studies in the third quarter of 2021.