Astellas joins forces with Immunomics on allergy vaccine

Astellas Pharma's immunology offerings take the form of antirejection drugs for kidney, liver or heart transplant patients, but the Japanese company is now getting a piece of the vaccine pie. It is joining forces with U.S.-based Immunomic Therapeutics to develop the latter's vaccine to treat allergies caused by Japanese red cedar.

Astellas will contribute $15 million up front, with another $55 million to follow in milestones, to acquire the Japanese rights to Immunomic's candidate.

Immunomic CEO William Hearl

More than 60 years ago, in an effort to reforest the nation, Japan's interior ministry planted millions of red cedars, unaware that the trees are prolific producers of pollen, William Hearl, Immunomic CEO, told FierceBiotech. Over time, the trees produced huge clouds of pollen that eventually made their way to urban areas, where the pollen causes widespread hay fever every allergy season.

The candidate, JRC-LAMP-vax, comes at a time of clinical promise, medical need and market opportunity, Hearl said. The shot has a potential U.S. market as well, because North American mountain cedar pollen is similar to that of the Japanese red cedar.

In addition to JRC-LAMP-vax, Immunomic has a candidate for mountain cedar allergies in clinical trials and is preparing to conduct Phase I trials with one for peanut allergies.

Also in the allergy vaccine field, Anergis is working on a vaccine to treat a birch allergy. The Swiss biotech raised 14.5 million Swiss francs ($15 million) in December last year to take the candidate through Phase III trials. British vaccinemaker Circassia, whose lead candidate is a cat allergy vaccine, began trading on the London Stock Exchange in March last year.

- here's Astellas' and Immunomic's statement
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