Evotec’s immunology spin-out Topas Therapeutics has inked a multi-year R&D collaboration with pharma major Eli Lilly. The initial focus of research, which will be financed by Eli Lilly, is on identification of antigens that specifically induce a T regulatory cell response in inflammatory and auto-immune disorders.
Using the company’s nanoparticle platform, the collaboration will initially focus on identification of inflammatory or autoimmunity-inducing antigens that trigger immune tolerance through activation of regulatory T cells responses in liver stem cells. Specifically, Topas targets peptide-loaded nanoparticles towards liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), which are one of the body’s premier sites to induce tolerance against bloodborne antigens by generating peptide-specific regulatory T cells.
Under the terms of the agreement, Topas will be responsible for conducting pre-clinical proof-of-principle studies in collaboration with Lilly to generate drug candidates. According to the contract, Lilly may licence and advance development of all candidates originating from the collaboration. Topas will receive R&D funding and participate in the future success of any compounds in-licensed by Lilly. Financial details of the collaboration have not been disclosed.
Topas Therapeutics was spun out in March from Evotec’s subsidiary Bionamics GmbH. The company, which uses a groundbreaking nanoparticle technology to target autoimmune and inflammatory diseases via the induction of antigen-specific immune tolerance in the liver, has €14m of venture capital from Epidarex Capital, EMBL Ventures and Gimv in its pockets. Evotec is its largest shareholder.
Topas has several candidate peptides under preclinical development, the most advanced expected to come to the clinic in 2018 is intended to treat multiple sclerosis.