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Avacta extends its partnership with Daewoong Pharmaceutical and AffyXell Therapeutics for Covid-19 stem cell treatments

Avacta has extended its collaboration and license agreement with Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co and their South Korean joint venture AffyXell Therapeutics.

They will develop stem cell treatments incorporating Avacta’s neutralising Affimer therapy for the treatment of seriously ill patients with Covid-19 and prepare for the rapid development of similar therapies for future global pandemics.

Dr Alistair Smith, CEO of Avacta Group
Dr Alistair Smith, CEO of Avacta Group

Stem cell therapies offer one potential route to repairing lung tissue damage caused by the immune system’s over-reaction to respiratory diseases such as Covid-19.

AffyXell Therapeutics, a next-generation cell and gene therapy joint venture between Whittlesford-based Avacta and Daewoong, is developing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatments engineered to produce Affimer therapies in the patient at the site of action.

The partnership has been extended to include Affimer molecules that target viruses, such as coronaviruses, to develop therapies that repair lung damage, while also producing neutralising Affimer molecules to prevent the progression of the disease.

Under the expanded partnership, AffyXell will engineer mesenchymal stem cells to express SARS-CoV-2 neutralising Affimer molecules to develop treatments for seriously ill Covid-19 patients. It will also prepare for rapid development of next-generation stem cell therapies for future infectious respiratory disease outbreaks.

Avacta CEO Dr Alastair Smith said: “I am very pleased to have extended our collaboration and license agreement with Daewoong Pharmaceutical to include the SARS-CoV-2 neutralising Affimer molecules for the treatment of Covid-19 and to create the potential to respond very rapidly in future to global virus threats.

“AffyXell will address the need over the coming years for advanced stem cell therapies to treat lung damage caused by cytokine release syndrome suffered by Covid-19 patients and, at the same time, help prevent disease progression in these patients through the action of a neutralising Affimer therapy.

“More broadly, one of the key areas of unmet clinical need that AffyXell can address with its next-generation mesenchymal stem cell therapies is acute pulmonary diseases such as COPD and acute respiratory distress syndrome. We, and our partners in South Korea, are very excited by the potential to develop life improving treatments for patients with these serious respiratory diseases as well as Covid-19.”

Seng-ho Jeon, CEO of Daewoong Pharmaceutical and AffyXell Therapeutics, said:

“It is very encouraging that AffyXell now has the opportunity to expand the application of its next-generation stem cell platform technology to target viruses. The SARS-CoV-2 neutralising Affimer to be developed in combination with AffyXell’s cell and gene technology is expected to be an innovative solution for COVID-19 patients suffering cytokine release syndrome.

“Daewoong has been also conducting several research programs and clinical trial for Covid19. As the Covid-19 crisis has caused great difficulties worldwide, we will continue to focus our efforts to develop a novel therapeutic agent for Covid-19.”

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