The collaboration aims to develop aptamers as the next generation of autoimmune treatments. Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids that form three-dimensional shapes, allowing them to bind to target molecules in a manner that is conceptually similar to antibodies. Aptamers combine the optimal characteristics of small molecules and antibodies, including high specificity and affinity, chemical and biological stability, low immunogenicity, and the ability to target protein-protein interactions. In contrast to monoclonal antibodies, aptamers are chemically synthesized rather than biologically expressed, potentially offering a significant cost advantage. As therapeutic agents, aptamers have demonstrated clinical biological efficacy and typically have excellent, tunable pharmacokinetic properties. The collaboration centres on the development of aptamer therapeutics to IL-23, a cytokine that has emerged as a mediator in the chronic autoimmune inflammatory diseases, and additional protein targets. Interleukin 23, or IL-23, is a cytokine that has emerged as a mediator in chronic autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn's Disease, Psoriasis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Preclinical results have demonstrated that IL-23 exerts its pro-inflammatory effects principally at the site of inflammation. It is hypothesised that specific blockade of IL-23 may control clinical symptoms at the level of the inflamed tissue without generally suppressing the patient's immune system, thus preserving the body's ability to fight infection. The current anti-cytokine treatments for autoimmune disorders have a number of disadvantages, including an increased risk of infection, increased chances of developing lymphoma, renal toxicity, and limited efficacy. Archemix's aptamers are first-in-class therapeutics for autoimmune diseases that exert their action by specifically inhibiting IL-23 in the target tissue.
"We selected Elan from a number of potential pharmaceutical partners because of its demonstrated expertise in the clinical and regulatory landscape of autoimmune disease," said Errol De Souza, President and Chief Executive Officer of Archemix. "Our position in aptamer therapeutics positions Archemix to be a product development engine, developing a portfolio of aptamers for both acute and chronic disease. Aptamers are poised to become the next generation of therapeutics," he added. Under the terms of the agreement, Archemix will receive an upfront payment of $7m (€5.5m) Depending upon the number of products successfully commercialised under the collaboration, Archemix is eligible to receive development and sales milestones in excess of $350m. Other financial terms were not disclosed. "We are pleased and enthusiastic about joining forces with Archemix to seek to further expand patient/physician treatment choice in autoimmune diseases," said G. Kelly Martin, Elan's President and Chief Executive Officer.
"By combining our strengths, this collaboration can accelerate the development of new therapies for chronic, debilitating diseases with continued unmet medical needs."