Genclis offers allergy therapy pathway to potential animal health partners
French biotechnology firm Genclis is currently in discussions with some of animal health's top businesses. Animal Pharm editor Joseph Harvey spoke to the company's chief executive Bernard Bihain to find out why its platform technology can boost innovation in the companion animal allergy space.
Founded in 2004, Genclis began life as a contract research organization that secured several contracts in the field of allergy for both the human and veterinary health sectors. Now it has evolved into an R&D business seeking partnerships with animal health companies that can handle the regulatory and commercial aspects of taking therapies to market.
Genclis , which derives its name from 'genomic clinical synergy', has developed its patented Transcription Infidelity (TI) platform in-house. This technology analyzes differences between RNA and DNA sequences to identify translated proteins that can cause the production of immunoglobulin E – the antibody responsible for most forms of allergies – or immunoglobulin G, which is a critical component of vaccine efficacy.
Therapies produced with the TI platform elicit self-produced antibodies that block disease-causing proteins, irrespective of their endogenous or exogenous origin.
Bernard Bihain said: "Our platform relies on discovery techniques that are not yet mainstream science. Although, in the future, I think we will see a gold rush for this sort of technology as we start to understand the mechanisms driving humoral immunity."
Genclis can induce or suppress the production of antibodies that bind to their target with high affinity. This can be done without the need of adjuvants and in any species.
"This is a powerful tool that can address the cause of a disease and not just the symptom," Mr Bihain noted. "The clinical applications are broad and expand from allergies to autoimmunity and vaccines. The quality of our science is very high and we have a deep knowledge in this field. As far as I know, there are no other companies out there doing what we do."
Bernard Bihain: "We don't inhabit this planet on our own. We are working on the frontier of One Health. We can learn so much from animal health and then translate this over to humans."
The firm has two ongoing strategic partnerships with unnamed players in the animal health and human food sectors. For animal health, the TI technology is used to develop artificial colostrum to boost immunity in livestock.
Mr Bihain said Genclis has an ambitious pipeline and, this quarter, it intends to sign another exclusive collaboration in the veterinary space. This particular deal will be in the allergy space, where the firm's technology will be used to develop both diagnostics and treatments for companion animals.
The company hopes to snare a headline partner and is in talks with some of the top businesses in the animal health industry, according to Mr Bihain. While Genclis provides the scientific expertise, its prospective partner will take on the regulatory and commercial responsibilities for the therapies.
Mr Bihain praised Zoetis for growing the companion animal allergy sector with products such as Apoquel and Cytopoint. The industry leader has made blockbusters out of these two products and increased the viable size of the allergy opportunity for other players.
While Zoetis is a clear number one in pet allergy treatments, Mr Bihain suggested there is plenty of room for other companies to make headway in this area.
He pointed out the allergy medicines market for humans is valued at around $40 billion (around $25bn is made up of symptomatic treatments but only $500 million is for therapies addressing causes of allergies). The current animal health version of the allergy desensitization market is 20-fold smaller than that in the human health field. This is mostly due to the low performances of current diagnosis and limited efficacy of current desensitization solutions.
Mr Bihain said Genclis has two major goals for 2020 – both linked to R&D in the companion animal allergy market.
"This year we want to be able to prove we can fix most dog allergies within a very short period of time (less than 2 months) and do this irrespective of the allergens," he explained. "We strive to achieve this by June and then deliver those findings to a partner. Our second goal this year is to produce an in vitro test that accurately detects allergic conditions in dogs."
One Health focus
While the Genclis TI platform can produce novel therapies for both human pharma and animal health, the firm's initial focus will be the latter market.
Mr Bihain told Animal Pharm: "I realized that great discoveries in medicine occurred when medical doctors and veterinarians joined forces. One Health is a reality. We don't inhabit this planet on our own. We are working on the frontier of One Health. We can learn so much from animal health and then, when we are ready, we can translate this over to humans. Will we capture less value with animals than humans? Probably, but what we can achieve in animals will benefit us in the long term."
He said Genclis takes this focus on One Health into investor meetings and, if a potential backer does not share the firm's enthusiasm for both animal and human health, then Mr Bihain will seek funding elsewhere.
The company is looking for venture capital in 2020. It hopes to secure funding at around the same time it seals its expected pet allergy partnership in the first quarter.