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Biotechs to Partner on Cancer Therapy, Drug Production

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The biotechnology companies iBio Inc. in Newark, Delaware and Caliber Biotherapeutics in Bryan, Texas agreed to combine their plant-based genomic drug discovery and development technologies to produce new therapeutics, beginning with a cancer drug. Financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

iBio’s platform, called iBio Launch, uses plant biology to harness gene expression for producing large quantities of genetically engineered plant proteins. While the genes in iBio’s technology may be engineered, says the company, the plants used in the process are not, and as a result this approach makes it more technically and commercially feasible than transgenic organisms or animal cells in bioreactors. iBio says it also employs informatics and synthetic biology techniques in its protein design process.

Caliber Biotherapeutics also has a plant-based drug development technology, producing monoclonal antibody candidates for cancer and other diseases based on gene expression and recombinant proteins from Nicotiana benthamiana (N. benthamiana) plants, a relative of tobacco. Caliber says it operates the world’s largest N. benthamiana expression-based protein manufacturing facility that can produce more than 300 kilograms of active pharmaceutical ingredients per year.

The companies say their combined capabilities will support development of bio-based pharmaceuticals from early product selection and optimization through large-scale production. Their first joint project will be a monoclonal antibody to treat cancer, although the specific type of cancer was not revealed. Caliber and iBio plan to make their facilities available for design and production of their respective development portfolios, as well as to third parties. Their combined capacities make it possible, say the companies, to quickly design and produce large quantities of vaccines or biotherapeutics to counter pandemics or bioterrorism.

The agreement calls for iBio to receive license and milestone fees for development of product targets selected by Caliber, starting with the initial cancer therapy. Caliber will fund clinical development and commercialization of products from the collaboration, and iBio will receive royalties on product sales and other revenues.

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Hat tip: MedCity News

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