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Wetherby life sciences firm joins forces with South Korean partner

Avacta Group, based in Wetherby, has agreed a joint venture with Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co, a leading Korean pharmaceutical company.

The West Yorkshire life sciences business develops Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents. Affimers are binding proteins that can be used to treat illnesses in which antibodies and aptamers are unable to be used.

The South Korean joint venture will see the development of the next generation of cell and gene therapies, incorporating Affimer proteins. It will also result in work on Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are promising agents for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. A new class of MSCs will be developed that are primed to produce Affimer proteins, designed to enhance the immune-modulatory effect in patients by reducing inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

Avacta’s research and development costs will be covered by the joint venture, funded by Daewoong. Having developed Affimer proteins, Avacta will transfer them to the joint venture to be incorporated into MSCs.

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive officer of Avacta Group, said: “Cell and gene therapies are attracting intense clinical and commercial interest.

“We are very excited to establish this joint venture with Daewoong, one of the top pharmaceutical companies in Korea, to develop the Affimer platform in this important therapeutic area. Our vision is to combine our platforms to create the next generation of cell therapies, for which the potential is huge.

“Within the last six months alone we have seen early stage stem cell companies acquired for significant sums.

“This joint venture will have a unique opportunity to generate superior cell therapies for some of the most pressing needs in immune-mediated disease.”

Dr Seng-ho Jeon, CEO of Daewoong Pharmaceutical, said: “Our partnership reinforces the companies’ shared vision of designing the next level of treatment paradigm, and opens up a new horizon in immunotherapeutic strategies.

“This innovative collaboration will deliver invaluable synergy and lead to new solutions to transform patients’ lives.”