London, England, 23rd September 2021 – VaxEquity, developing transformative RNA vaccines and therapeutics based on its next generation self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) platform originating from Imperial College London, today announces a collaboration with AstraZeneca to progress the company’s platform technology through proof of concept to enable the development of multiple products. VaxEquity could receive development, approval and sales-based milestones totalling up to $195 million and royalties in the mid-single digits per drug target. VaxEquity also received an upfront equity investment from AstraZeneca and global life sciences investor Morningside Ventures.
The strategic, long-term research collaboration with AstraZeneca aims to optimise and validate VaxEquity’s saRNA platform and apply it to advance novel therapeutic programmes. AstraZeneca will support VaxEquity with research and development funding and has the option to collaborate with VaxEquity on up to 26 drug targets. VaxEquity’s modified saRNA platform uses similar technology to mRNA but with the added ability to self-amplify, thereby expressing proteins for longer, resulting in higher protein levels per dose level.
Michael Watson, Executive Chairman of VaxEquity, said, “We are delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca given its strong track record in innovation and welcome them as a new investor. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our existing investor, Morningside Group. With our self-amplifying RNA platform, we aim to underpin the next generation of RNA-delivered medicines enabling not only vaccines but also broad range of therapeutic applications.”
Professor Robin Shattock, Head of Immunology of Infection within the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, and co-founder of VaxEquity, said, “We have all seen how technologies based around RNA have been fundamental to preventing ongoing severe disease and death in major global pandemics. The prospect of further therapeutic applications adds to this technology’s great potential.”
Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said “This collaboration with VaxEquity adds a promising new platform to our drug discovery toolbox. We believe self-amplifying RNA, once optimised, will allow us to target novel pathways not amenable to traditional drug discovery across our therapy areas of interest.”
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “I am deeply proud of my colleagues’ work in pioneering self-amplifying RNA technology. This collaboration will help realise our ambition of building a lasting legacy from the great scientific advances Imperial made in this pandemic.”
The proprietary, flexible platform enables the simultaneous expression of a broad range of targets and immunomodulatory proteins that can be rapidly produced and delivered at scale. Using saRNA, rather than mRNA, means that a lower (1/3 to 1/10th) dose of RNA is required to provide greatly enhanced protein expression as the RNA replicates for longer post-administration. VaxEquity modifies the RNA to include elements (called ‘Innate Inhibitory Proteins’ or IIPs) that finely tune the innate immune response (based on interferons) preventing suppression of RNA replication and thereby maximizing protein expression by saRNA.
As part of this investment and collaboration, Tyrell Rivers and Anders Holmén from AstraZeneca will join VaxEquity’s Board as Investor Directors. Will West and Jason Dinges will represent Morningside. Charles Mallo will represent Imperial. Robin Shattock will remain on the Board, while Michael Watson will assume the role of Executive Chair.