UPDATED: Selecta teams with diabetes foundation on Type 1 vaccine

Watertown, MA-based Selecta Biosciences, the biotech brainchild of MIT's prolific Bob Langer, is teaming up with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on a synthetic nanoparticle vaccine program aimed at treating and possibly even preventing Type 1 diabetes.

Just before jumping on a flight this morning, Selecta CEO Werner Cautreels told FierceBiotech that the new pact will initially be aimed at preclinical proof of principle, putting it at a very early stage of development. Selecta's lead program is a nicotine vaccine targeting smoking cessation and relapse. The Phase I study for that program--which is backed with a $3 million grant from the NIH--is slated to get underway in the fourth quarter of this year and wrap midway in 2012. 

"We believe vaccine research is one of the most promising approaches to prevent or halt the beta cell-specific autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes," said JDRF CSO Richard Insel, M.D. "And we are excited to be teaming up with Selecta to support the development of this next-generation of vaccine technology." Selecta isn't revealing any of the financial terms in the pact, but the foundation has been a generous supporter of experimental programs, contributing $75 million to research efforts over the years.

Over the last three years the developer has been setting up a synthetic vaccine particle platform under the tutelage of Langer as well as Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of Harvard Medical School. Langer worked with some familiar faces at Polaris Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures to get the Selecta ball rolling back in 2008. (NanoDimension and Leukon Investments joined the Selecta investment group early on.) 

Cautreels says that the biotech--which has raised $33 million in and hired a staff of 26--has been exploring other pacts for a technology that has roused interest at pharma companies, government agencies as well as as other non-profits like the JDFR. Selecta also announced today that it had hired Peter Keller as vice president of business development and alliance management, who will have a hand in hammering out some new deals.

- check out the release on the research pact
- here's the Selecta release on Peter Keller