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Immune Disease Biotech Acquired in $405M Deal

Human T-cell

Scanning electron micrograph of a healthy human T-cell (NIH.gov)

4 Aug. 2022. A biotechnology developer of treatments for autoimmune disorders with checkpoint receptor proteins is acquired by drug maker Gilead Sciences. The deal is expected to bring $405 million to shareholders in the privately-held MiroBio Ltd., a three year-old enterprise spun-off from labs at University of Oxford, in the U.K.

MiroBio discovers and develops therapies for autoimmune diseases that trick the immune system into attacking healthy cells and tissue as invading pathogens. The company’s technology seeks to restore homeostasis or balance in the immune system, to provide durable relief to patients, by activating immune checkpoint receptors. Many newer cancer therapies target similar checkpoint proteins, seeking to limit inhibitors blocking immune system responses to tumor cell growth. In this case, says MiroBio, the treatments aim to stimulate immune receptors that reverse signals stopping normal immune responses.

The company says it created a map of checkpoint receptor proteins in the body that limit normal immune system responses. With this checkpoint atlas, as it’s called, MiroBio compiles details of signaling between immune system cells through a gap known as a synapse. The company says it designs antibody proteins that generate artificial signals through the synapse and immune receptors. Signals from these antibodies, says MiroBio, act to block harmful inhibitory enzymes, and encourage connections with natural ligands or bonding molecules to provide more control over signaling pathways.

Raised $131 million in three years

MiroBio’s pipeline has two immunotherapies clearing preclinical development, one candidate code-named MB272 as an agonist of B and T lymphocyte attenuator or BTLA receptors associated with a range of inflammatory diseases, and another code-named MB151 addressing PD-1 receptors, a common cancer immunotherapy target. The company says MB272 recently began testing in an early-stage clinical trial.

MiroBio, was formed in Oct. 2019 in Oxford, based on research by its scientific founders immunologists Simon Davis and Richard Cornall, who continue as advisors to the company. Since its founding, MiroBio raised $131 million in venture funds, the latest round gaining £80 million ($US 97 million) in June 2022.

Gilead Sciences in Foster City, California is a developer of treatments for infectious diseases, and a leading provider of HIV drugs. The company also developing drugs for cancer and inflammatory diseases, including the autoimmune disorders rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Gilead is acquiring all MiroBio shares for $405 million in cash.

“The team at MiroBio has spearheaded foundational research for agonist antibodies following a rigorous scientific approach,” says Flavius Martin, executive vice-president for research at Gilead Sciences in a statement. “We believe that MiroBio’s unique platform technology has the potential to produce best-in-class agonist antibodies targeting immune inhibitory receptors.”

Eliot Charles, MiroBio’s board chairman adds, “MiroBio has a deep understanding of checkpoint receptor signaling and a proprietary approach to select and generate superior agonist antibodies. Combining this with Gilead’s drug development and therapeutic area expertise will allow us to fully explore the potential of checkpoint agonist antibodies for patients with autoimmune disease.”

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