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Sorrento And Smartpharm To Collaborate To Develop Novel Gene-encoded Antibody Vaccine Intended To Protect Against Covid-19

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

In response to the government call for rapidly deployable countermeasures, Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. and SmartPharm Therapeutics Inc. (SmartPharm) today announced a research and development collaboration to develop a next-generation, gene-encoded antibody vaccine for COVID-19. The collaboration will utilize monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus discovered and/or generated by Sorrento that will be encoded into a gene for delivery utilizing SmartPharm’s non-viral nanoparticle platform.

“Over the past 10+ years, Sorrento has extensively utilized the G-MABTM Library, one of the largest and most diverse fully human antibody libraries in the biopharma space, for discovering potent immuno-oncology and anti-infective antibodies against over 100 drug targets. In the effort to more quickly resolve the global COVID-19 crisis, our company has initiated a rapidly accelerated program for the identification of potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus antigens that may be used for either treatment or prophylaxis,” said Henry Ji, CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics. “We expect our platform to produce many candidate neutralizing antibodies for SmartPharm to incorporate into its powerful gene delivery platform. We look forward to our partnership with SmartPharm as part of our goal to make a meaningful impact in this truly global effort.”

“As a company founded by infectious disease physicians, including myself, we are passionate about applying our novel gene delivery platform to this national and global health crisis,” said Jose Trevejo CEO of SmartPharm Therapeutics. “Given the disproportionate mortality in elderly and immune-compromised, it is critical that we develop novel technologies that will better protect our populations that are particularly vulnerable to severe coronavirus infection.”

Unlike classical antigen-based vaccines, which rely on a patient’s immune system to establish efficacy, SmartPharm’s gene-encoded antibody platform is designed to directly neutralize the coronavirus by producing the protective antibody directly in the muscle of the individual. This gene-encoded monoclonal antibody delivery platform or Gene MAb™ bypasses the in vitro antigen production process and potential for vaccine-induced side-effects in immunized individuals. This is especially important in susceptible populations like the elderly, where antigen-based vaccines are significantly less effective for the prevention of respiratory infections such as influenza or coronavirus. The companies expect that this novel approach will enable faster progression to clinic, pending agreement with the FDA.

As part of the collaboration, Sorrento and SmartPharm expect to develop a gene-encoded antibody or antibodies that can be administered as a prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Plans for the collaboration may include candidate development as well as filing of an IND application in the next few months.

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