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Immunotherapy Company Raises $70 Million in IPO

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22 June 2016. Selecta Biosciences Inc., a biotechnology company developing treatments harnessing the immune system, is raising $70 million in its initial public offering, or IPO, of company shares. The Watertown, Massachusetts enterprise, trading on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol SELB, issued 5 million shares at $14.00. At the closing bell today, Selecta shares were unchanged trading at $14.00. The Nasdaq composite index today lost nearly 10.5 points, or 0.22 percent.

Selecta develops treatments and vaccines for triggering an immune response, from a platform called synthetic vaccine particles. These biodegradable nanoscale particles are taken up by dendritic cells in the immune system that are then presented to T-cells for an immune response. Synthetic vaccine particles are designed either to prevent an unwanted immune response from biologic drugs or activate a therapeutic immune response against a harmful invader.

The company first discovers new therapies or vaccines based on this platform, then takes the most promising candidates through clinical trials. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Selecta’s lead product code-named SEL-212 is in an early-stage clinical trial as a treatment for gout, a complex form of arthritis, marked by sudden and severe episodes of pain, with tenderness and redness in the joints.

SEL-212 is designed to work with uricase, an enzyme found in some animal species, but not humans, that oxidizes uric acid making it more soluble, so uric acid can be removed from the body. However, uricase also causes an immune system reaction, which sharply limits its use in natural form as a gout treatment.

Also reported in Science & Enterprise, Selecta is in a partnership with Généthon, a research institute developing gene therapies for rare inherited disorders. To deliver gene therapies, Généthon uses a technique known as adeno-associated viruses, benign, naturally occurring microbes that can infect cells. While the viruses do not integrate with the cell’s genome nor cause disease, they can generate a mild immune response.

The partnership aims to eliminate the antibodies and immune responses generated by viral delivery mechanisms, which will make it possible to give patients gene therapies in repeated doses. Under the agreement, Généthon plans to combine Selecta’s synthetic vaccine particle platform with its gene therapies using adeno-associated virus delivery. They plan to focus first on therapies for muscular dystrophies and pediatric liver metabolic diseases.

In addition, Selecta is developing treatments for type 1 diabetes and food allergies, including celiac disease, with drug maker Sanofi and, for type 1 diabetes with the foundation JDRF. The company is also developing a vaccine to prevent relapse from smoking cessation for National Institutes of Health, now in preclinical testing, as well as cancer from human papillomavirus and a malaria vaccine with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet

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