The deal sees Boston-based PureTech receive $36m (€30m) as an upfront fee and milestone payments worth over $1bn, depending on meeting certain research and development targets.
The technology at the centre of the deal is the platform that creates exosomes, within which small molecules, biologics or nucleic acids can be packaged and then administered orally. This method of delivery protects the therapeutics from being destroyed when passing through the stomach and gut.
Bharatt Chowrira, chief of business and strategy at PureTech, told us how the exosomes are isolated and how this would scale: “Milk exosomes can be isolated from a number of milk sources (colostrum, whole milk, skim milk, etc.) from any mammalian species. We have focused most of our work on bovine milk exosomes. We have numerous purification methods that are compatible with large-scale manufacturing.”
Roche will focus on using the technology alongside its antisense oligonucleotides, which treat generic disorders by targeting the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) – though how many candidates this will include was not revealed.
Chowrira explained that Roche will pay for all research and development cost for these products, as well potential commercialisation – with PureTech standing to receive royalties on sales.
In terms of why Roche decided to work with PureTech, Chowrira stated: “Our milk exosome-based technology is uniquely designed to facilitate the oral administration of complex payloads such as nucleic acids, small molecules, proteins, and peptides. None of the other exosome technologies being pursued are suitable for oral administration because they are very fragile and cannot withstand the harsh conditions of the gastrointestinal environment.”
As to how the exosomes spread through the body, Chowrira outlined that they are believed to travel through the lymphatic system and, as a result, this could open up the possibility for the technology to target immune cells in a new manner.
The agreement for Roche builds on its prior deal, in 2014, to acquire Santaris Pharma antisense Locked Nucleic Acid platform.