AC Immune: Second collaboration with Genentech to fight Alzheimer’s




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Video title: AC Immune: Second collaboration with Genentech to fight Alzheimer’s
Released on: July 04, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at #BIO2012 Convention in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to Dr Andrea Pfeifer, CEO and Founder of AC Immune.
Focus and competence in antibodies for Alzheimer's disease Therapy
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO in Boston, in 2012. On this show I have Andrea Pfeifer, who is the CEO and Founder of AC Immune, which is based in Lausanne, in Switzerland. Welcome.
Andrea Pfeifer:
Welcome.
Fintan Walton:
So Andrea, AC Immune interesting company focused largely on Alzheimer's , but you have products in other therapeutic areas, you have developed antibodies specifically for the therapy of Alzheimer's and I think one of the first deals you did was with Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 25985] and then yesterday you've announced another deal with Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 47412]. So first of all tell me little bit more about the business, how was it founded and how you've developed the products that you've got currently in your portfolio?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Yes, thank you. So AC Immune was founded in 2003 by six founders, four scientific founders and two business founders with the Nobel prize, the Lasker Prize for very good science and they made the decision to apply our technology to what we call today conformational diseases such as Alzheimer where you have proteins which misfold and cause all the trouble which you see in Alzheimer .
Fintan Walton:
Could you tell me about the actual specific antibodies that you've developed for Alzheimer's how is that how do they what do they target?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Yes, so as you all know Alzheimer is basically a disease of proteins, proteins which normally occur in the body that for unknown reason change in their structural appearance so only a change in structure, now the challenge for a new therapy for Alzheimer is that you develop drugs which specifically target the conformationally changed, structurally changed target and this is very difficult to do and in fact the competence of our company is to really make antibodies which only bind to a sick conformationally changed protein and not the other, the more specific it is the better is the drug, the safest is the drug, the more efficacious is the drug.
Antibody against abeta
Fintan Walton:
Right, so the first antibody that you've developed could you tell us about that, because you've now got two antibodies the first antibody which was licensed to Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 25985] what was that antibody and where it is now?
Andrea Pfeifer:
So the first antibody was against Abeta one of the proteins which forms through the famous plaques in the brain and this Abeta again misfolds and actually then disturbs the brain and our antibody actually again binds very specifically this misfolded protein the antibody is because of it's specificity are very safe and it was just selected last month actually as the first ever preventive trial in Alzheimer and obviously when you treat healthy people the safety is an absolute must, we are very happy that in fact this expert committee in America choose our drug for this preventive trial, it gives hope to a society, it gives hope to the patients, it gives hope to the industry.
Fintan Walton:
So how is that antibody then actually delivered to the brain? How is that actually work?
Andrea Pfeifer:
The antibody is given intravenous or subcutaneous this is what we are testing right now in Phase II the antibodies since last year in Phase II development and goes as planned.
Antibody for Tau
Fintan Walton:
Okay. And now you've got a second antibody, tell us about that because this the other deal you've just announced with Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 47412]?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Right. So as I mentioned at the beginning we have two proteins which are linked with disease one is Abeta forming of a plaques and one is tau forming the tangles both have one thing in common they have this conformation change in an order to be specific and efficacious it want antibodies against weak misfolded form, so the second antibody for tau has again the same specificity it binds only 100% the misfolded protein and for that it's of course very efficacious and has a quick potential for safety.
Fintan Walton:
So when you have you say it's efficacious to what degree have you tested to be efficacious?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Well the antibodies go for a whole pipeline of animal testing, mice, transgenic mice, monkeys to be of course to assure the safety but also to assure that these plaque disappear in the mice so these are mice which carry the Alzheimer disease then you want to make sure that they do the right thing, so of a plaque disappear of the tangles disappear the memory comes back and it's wonderful when you see already that your mice suddenly become normal again, they are not aggressive because they become very aggressive when they carry the disease and they normalize.
Fintan Walton:
So you're reversing the process?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Yes we have stopping and revering the process in mice.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Andrea Pfeifer:
What it does in human we don't know.
Fintan Walton:
Yes, so how would you compare the two proteins?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Two proteins and for that matter the two antibodies are covering different stages of the disease so what is believed today is that Abeta comes first leads to the first damage of a brain and then the tau comes on and the brain destruction then the impairment of a memory and then finally of a clinical symptoms and so both the antibodies cover different stages of a disease, but at the later stage of the disease you definitely will need both. So while you might want to use these antibodies as separate trucks for different stages in the later stage you most likely will need both in order to stop or cure the disease.
Functional mechanism of antibody
Fintan Walton:
So how does the antibody actually work in actually removing the plaques?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Well this is a good question, we know quite a bit for the Abeta we are working very much on the tau, so what happens is that the antibody gets into a brain so in contest to what you know from the text book where it was discussed that antibodies would never go into a brain, we have shown that they do make it into a brain.
Fintan Walton:
This is this normal functional antibodies?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Normal functional antibodies and then they bind to this plaque to see it in fact we have shown it very nicely and then complex between the antibody and the protein is taken up by the macrophages and then basically eliminated, however and it's very important for our antibody the uptake must be must not involve an inflammatory process and we have shown by the special features of our antibody that in fact this elimination, this clearance by macrophages is without inflammatory process, so we have no inflammatory reaction which is important.
Deal with Genentech
Fintan Walton:
Very, very interesting. So what's the basis of the deal? What's the deal that you got with Genentech on the second protein?
Andrea Pfeifer:
So the deal is well has a normal biotech structure, so it has an upfront payment, it has milestone payments for research, for regulatory and commercialization, it has the royalty and quite important to us because we want to guide our baby into the clinic it's a multi-year collaboration there we have to develop this antibody under the channel responsibility of Genentech.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so the actual research the new, the next stage of research is going to be done by Genentech?
Andrea Pfeifer:
No it's actually a collaboration, so with a clear plan which part is done in AC Immune and which part is done in Genentech and there is a very intensive exchange of information and I think one reason why we choose Genentech was actually that the earlier molecule was so well taken into the clinic by both parties already it's a very good example how it should work and we had confidence it can work again.
Products in pipeline
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so you've also got other products in the pipeline, could you just briefly tell us about those product?
Andrea Pfeifer:
So besides the antibodies AC Immune works on vaccination against the same proteins the Abeta and the Tau and it also have small molecules. We have two products in the clinic, one in late stage Phase II, one in Phase I/IIa and then we have four preclinical compounds and one of them was the recent deal with Genentech.
Future plans
Fintan Walton:
Excellent and what's the future for AC Immune? Where you gonna go with your company?
Andrea Pfeifer:
Well I mean there importantly is obvious to have enough money on the bank and I think this is today where best situation to be for that we are (indiscernable) we always want to keep at least 18 months to 2-years cash because it gives you the flexibility to decide the best for our company, so we will use some of the funding to take our products into late clinic development we intend to take two more products into the clinic, we intend to improve our diagnostic means by developing an imaging agent for Tau in the brain, so basically it's to make the accelerated development of our products in the next two-years.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent. Well Andrea, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Andrea Pfeifer:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Andrea Pfeifer
Chief Executive Officer
At the time of recording this PTV interview Andrea Pfeifer serves as Chief Executive Officer of AC Immune. In 2003 Prof. Dr. Andrea Pfeifer co-founded AC Immunewhere she holds since foundation the position of CEO. She serves as chairwoman of the BioMedInvest AG Investment Fund, Basel and on the Supervisory Board of Sygnis Pharma AG, Heidelberg and Symrise AG, Holzminden. Prof. Pfeifer is a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council Brain and Cognitive Sciences and was recognized in 2009 as Technology Pioneer by the WEF and Swiss Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst&Young. Additional recognitions include the election as one of the top 20 startup CEOs and one of the 300 most influential personalities in Switzerland. As the former head of Nestle's Global Research in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Prof. Pfeifer managed a group of more than 600 people, she brings more than 25 years of senior management experience including broad R&D, business and international exposure. While at Nestl", she led the development of the first Functional Food, LC1, and one of the first Cosmoceutical products in a joint venture with L'Oreal, Inn"ov Fermet". She also co-founded the Nestle Venture Capital Fund, a " 100Mio. Life Sciences corporate venture fund. Prof. Pfeifer is an international expert in Biotech and a Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique F"d"rale de Lausanne, Switzerland. Prof. Pfeifer completed her studies and doctoral work in Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of W"rzburg, Germany, and continued with post-doctoral work in Molecular Carcinogenesis at the National Institutes of Health, Human Carcinogenesis Branch, in Bethesda, USA. Being a registered Toxicologist and Pharmacist, she received her habilitation from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland in 2000. She has published more than 200 papers and abstracts in leading scientific journals.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
AC Immune
AC Immune SA is a Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company and a leader in Alzheimer's Disease drug development. We are developing innovative therapeutics with "best in class" potential against Alzheimer's Disease and other conformational diseases along three axes: vaccines, antibodies and small molecules. The anti-Abeta antibody for passive immunization is partnered with Genentech. We continue to develop in house the small moleculeACI-91 and the vaccineACI-24. These three programs in clinical development are focused on Alzheimer's Disease and are backed by a rich portfolio of preclinical compounds. Our therapeutic molecules are also leveraged for Alzheimer's Disease diagnostic and other central nervous system (CNS) and non-CNS diseases, such as Glaucoma . Since its foundation in 2003, the company has raised CHF 64 million from private investors. Two out-licensing agreements with Genentech were closed in 2006 and 2012 for potential values of more than US$ 300 million and more than CHF 400 million respectively. Our team of more than 45 professionals is based on the site of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland.