Defence Therapeutics outlines how it is actively looking to continue the development of its product pipeline in partnership with large pharmaceutical companies.
Defence Therapeutics, a pre-clinical stage Canadian biotech founded in 2017, is currently exploiting its proprietary versatile Accum™ technology to enhance accumulation of biologicals in target cells.
The company are a driving force behind rapid advancements in drug delivery technology, supporting the ongoing development of the pharmaceutical industry. Tacking industry-wide challenges with their innovative product portfolio and AccumTM technology, Defence is providing solutions to problems.
2022 will be a revolutionary year for Defence Therapeutics with major drug delivery and vaccine developments on the horizon. Projects in the pipeline include Phase I trials for anti-cancer therapeutics, evolving their existing SARS-CoV-2 intranasal vaccine further and progressing their new protein-based HPV with significantly more to come.
Exploring antibody-drug conjugates
The company’s core technological research is based around addressing a major and common challenge in both the vaccine and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) fields. When the target cell binds and internalises an antigen or an ADC, the complex is entrapped inside intracellular small vesicles named endosomes. Ultimately, these endosomes undergo maturation, consequently leading to their cargo degradation, which impedes its respective function. Thus, the company’s goal is to use the Accum enhancer formulation to improve intracellular delivery of biological therapeutic agents by inducing their escape to the cytosol, consequently improving their therapeutic efficacy.
While this technology can be applied to any RNA, DNA or protein molecule, Accum is currently being used by Defence to develop half a dozen products targeting both the immuno-oncology space (vaccine, antibody-drug conjugate and anti-cancer therapeutics) as well as infectious diseases (SARS-CoV2 and HPV). In fact, two Phase I trials focused on tackling breast and skin cancer are scheduled to start this year.
Defence’s Accum platform has been developed and tested in vitro to enhance the intracellular drug delivery on multiple ADCs that are FDA approved or under development and is paving the way with its antibody-drug conjugate programme. This involves attaching Accum to a given ADC to enhance its accumulation and therapeutic potency by 10-100-fold in cancer cells.
A second generation HPV vaccine
The company’s new protein-based HPV vaccine – named AccuVAC-PT009 – utilises Defence’s Accum technology and elicited a humoral response that surpassed that achieved by the Gardasil -9 in animal models.
To further illustrate the versatility of Accum, the Defence research and development team designed and engineered a HPV vaccine (a mix of the same 9 HPV-derived L1 proteins used in Gardasil-9) and compared its immunogenicity to a group of Gardasil-9-immunised animals. Compared to Gardasil-9, AccuVAC-PT009 triggered an impressive 27- and 36-fold increase in antibody titer at four- and six-weeks post-immunisation, respectively.
Sébastien Plouffe, the CEO of Defence Therapeutics, commented: ‘We are extremely proud to demonstrate again how Accum can be exploited and applied to significantly improve any protein-based vaccine. Not only can this vaccine have a tremendous impact on improving the immunogenicity of the commercialised Gardasil-9, but it can, in addition, lower the dosing (at least by 10-fold) yet trigger a similar or more potent humoral response.’
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global HPV vaccine market size was valued at $3.80bn in 2019 and is projected to reach $12.69bn by 2027, with a CAGR of 16.3%.
This not only shows how Accum can be used and applied to significantly boost any protein-based vaccine, but it alludes to the fact that Accum can be used to re-work dosing and administration regimen of various vaccines while remaining more effective that standard vaccines.
Accum: a solution looking for a problem
The core of Defence’s success is the fact that a single small molecule can be tagged on any type of biological to promote its efficacy. Whether it is an antibody to fight cancer, a protein antigen to stimulate immunity or a Cas9 protein to enhance genetic modification in a given cell; the applications are endless. As such, the corporate’s business model is not focused on a single molecule targeting a specific indication, but rather a single molecule permissive to mould any immuno-oncology indication.
The company’s goal is to use the Accum enhancer formulation to improve intracellular delivery of biological therapeutic agents
The next step
Defence Therapeutics can already envision collaborations with other manufacturers and large established pharma’s in the field. The proposed HPV vaccine could easily attract Merck or GSK while its intranasal protein-based COVID vaccine is suitable for the giant French company Sanofi, which is currently exploring a protein-based alternative vaccine targeting SARS-CoV2.
Accum can be used and applied to significantly boost any protein-based vaccine
Besides, Defence has also developed an intranasal COVID vaccine (AccuVAC-IN003) which would not only ensure effective protection but could also halt transmission with 100% blockade of viral shedding due to induced mucosal immunity (i.e., nasal cavity and lungs). These are some examples reflecting the Accum platform‘s varied opportunities. With these encouraging results obtained on the cancer therapeutics and vaccination, collaborations with large companies remain a central goal for Defence Therapeutics in 2022.