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Allergy Antibody Biotech Gains $40M in New Funds

Bag of peanuts

(Radu Marcusu, Unspalsh)

6 Feb. 2023. A biotechnology enterprise creating engineered antibodies to treat severe food allergies is raising $40 million in its second venture financing round. IgGenix Inc. in South San Francisco is a three year-old spin-off business from labs at Stanford University medical school studying allergies and biomedical engineering.

The IgGenix technology seeks to disrupt the allergic cascade, a chain-reaction in people with allergies causing responses ranging from mild itching to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The company licenses research by its scientific founders Stephen Quake and Kari Nardeau — professor of biomedical engineering, and chief of asthma and allergy respectively at Stanford — identifying Immunoglobulin E or IgE antibodies, rare immune system components produced in reaction to some parasites, but also when people with allergies encounter foods or substances in the environment triggering a cascade.

IgE antibodies bind to mast cells, another immune-system cell, to start an allergic cascade. In a paper published in Dec. 2018, a team led by Quake isolated B-cells in the immune system that produce IgE antibodies from six individuals with peanut allergies.  The researchers also analyzed RNA transcription patterns that generate IgE antibodies to better understand their chemical make-up. The Stanford labs went on to synthesize more common Immunoglobulin G or IgG antibodies, re-engineered from IgE varieties, that block IgE activity, which became the basis of IgGenix’s technology.

Antibodies reacting to a variety of tree nuts

IgGenix says it isolates rare IgE-generating B-cells from human blood samples, from which the company produces synthetic humanized IgG antibodies that block allergic cascades and prevent allergic reactions. The company says its allergy treatments target the most active allergens and epitopes or binding sites on allergens across patient populations, both children and adults.

IgGenix says its lead program addresses peanut allergies. However, in a paper presented at a meeting of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in July 2022, company co-founder and chief technology officer Derek Croote reported that the IgGenix process discovered antibodies that react to multiple tree nuts, including pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and pecans, indicating immunotherapies may need to be carefully targeted for people with food allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says some 32 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, of which nearly six million are children.

The company is raising $40 million in its second venture funding round, led by life science and real estate investor Alexandria Venture Investments in Pasadena, California, with existing investors Khosla Ventures, Sean Parker, AllerFund, and new investor Eli Lilly and Company taking part. In Aug. 2020, Science & Enterprise reported on IgGenix’s start-up and first venture round raising $10 million.

IgGenix says it plans to use the round’s proceeds to begin an early-stage clinical trial for its peanut allergy therapy.”Food allergies impact approximately 32 million people in the United States and over 200 million people globally,” notes Joel Marcus, founder and executive chairman of Alexandria Venture Investments, in an IgGenix statement, “varying in intensity from person to person and underscoring a vast unmet medical need for new, innovative treatments.” Marcus is joining the IgGenix board of directors.

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