Big-name Partnership Will Drive Development of Program for Lupus, B-Cell Disorder Therapies

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by Magdalena Kegel |

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Partnership will drive development of therapies for lupus, B-cell disorders

San Francisco-based Thunderbolt — the first company established by Vitesse Biologics — has attained the rights to Astellas Pharma’s BAFF/APRIL dual antagonist program — a therapeutic solution developed for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) as well as a range of B-cell disorders, according to a recent announcement from Baxalta, Velocity Pharmaceutical Development, and Astellas.

Vitesse Biologics is a partnership between Baxalta, the Mayo Clinic, and Velocity, and focuses on the development of treatments for cancer, hematology, and immunological conditions.

“With this asset purchase from Astellas and the creation of Thunderbolt, we are excited to begin to accelerate the development of the BAFF/APRIL dual antagonist program with the potential to deliver innovative treatments for patients with unmet needs,” John Orloff, head of Research & Development and chief scientific officer at Baxalta, said in a press release. “This is the first company formed under the Vitesse Biologics platform, and we look forward to continuing to build our portfolio to explore new concepts and technologies.”

Baxalta, Velocity, and the Mayo Clinic will share the costs of developing new drugs through the program. Through Vitesse, Baxalta will also contribute with antibody and protein development as well as commercialization, while the Mayo Clinic will advise on the selection of drug candidates for preclinical studies and designing and executing Phase 1 clinical trials. Velocity will take responsibility for VPD and will be responsible for preclinical processes such as target identification and selection of drug candidates early in the process and will head preclinical studies.

“We are pleased to have created this first company as a result of the novel model in drug development which leverages the basic science and clinical expertise of Mayo Clinic researchers with the drug development and manufacturing expertise of our partners, to accelerate patient therapies for B-cell disorders,” said Andrew D. Badley, director of Drug Discovery and the Office of Translation to Practice at the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at Mayo Clinic. “Mayo researchers pursue discoveries that will deliver hope and better health to people today and into the future.”

Kenji Yasukawa, chief strategy officer at Astellas, said he is “really pleased that Velocity, Mayo Clinic, and Baxalta, which have strong capabilities of antibody and protein-based therapeutics in the areas of immunology, hematology, and oncology,” will develop the BAFF/APRIL dual antagonist.

“We expect that innovative treatments could be delivered for patients who suffer from B-cell disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus,” Yasukawa said.