Rare Daily Staff
Aurinia Pharmaceuticals said it acquired two novel assets that will expand the company’s rare autoimmune and kidney-related disease pipeline.
“Over the past year, in anticipation of building out and diversifying our development pipeline, we have brought on additional large and small molecule expertise that uniquely aligns with Aurinia’s focus on immunology and nephrology,” said Peter Greenleaf, president and CEO of Aurinia. “These transactions are transformational for Aurinia as they allow us to leverage our existing R&D capabilities and commercial experience to support a balanced pipeline and advance innovative therapeutic solutions to help people living with rare autoimmune diseases.”
Aurinia acquired the first program, AUR200, through the purchase of all of the common stock of privately held Thunderbolt Pharma. AUR200 is a recombinant Fc fusion protein designed to specifically block B-cell Activating Factor, known as BAFF, and A Proliferation-Inducing Ligand, known as APRIL. BAFF and APRIL promote B cell survival and differentiation and have been shown to play a prominent role in the pathogenesis of certain autoimmune and nephrology conditions.
Aurinia made an aggregate upfront payment of $750,000 to the shareholders of Thunderbolt and will be responsible for future regulatory milestones upon investigational new drug (IND) acceptance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or any equivalent authority. Additionally, Thunderbolt shareholders will receive low single digit royalties on any future net sales. AUR200 is currently undergoing preclinical development with projected submission of an IND to the FDA by the end of 2022.
“BAFF/APRIL inhibition has been extensively studied and established as an important approach to managing immunologic response,” said Neil Solomons, chief scientific officer of Aurinia. “We are encouraged by AUR200’s unique profile and best-in-class potential and look forward to sharing further data and updates on this exciting program.”
Aurinia secured the second program, AUR300, through a global licensing and research agreement with Riptide Bioscience. AUR300 is a novel peptide therapeutic that modulates M2 macrophages (a type of white blood cells) via the macrophage mannose receptor CD206. Dysregulation of M2 macrophages drives fibrosis. AUR300 acts to reduce M2 dysregulation and decrease inflammatory cytokines, and therefore may have significant clinical applications for autoimmune and fibrotic diseases.
Riptide has longstanding expertise in interpreting the etiology of fibrosis, including the discovery of lysyl oxidase and procollagen. As part of the agreement, Aurinia paid Riptide an upfront fee of $6 million. Additional milestone payments are due upon certain development, clinical and regulatory milestones, and royalties will be payable upon commercialization. It is anticipated that clinical development for AUR300 will commence during the first half of 2023.
“Both of these programs are rooted in strong science and at the leading edge of approaches for the treatment of autoimmune, fibrotic, and kidney diseases,” said Rob Huizinga, executive vice president of research, Aurinia. “Significant research has been done to date in both BAFF/APRIL inhibition and macrophage modulation and we are confident both of these approaches offer high potential across multiple autoimmune diseases as we advance them into the clinic.”
Photo: Peter Greenleaf, president and CEO of Aurinia