EpiVax toolkit to be used by Japanese biopharmaceutical firm

PROVIDENCE – A Japanese biopharmaceutical company has contracted to begin using a protein-screening interface developed by Providence-based EpiVax Inc.
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. will use the Interactive Protein Screening and Reengineering Interface with OptiMatrix, another EpiVax technology, in its antibody engineering work. Currently Germany-based Boehringer-Ingelheim also uses the Web-based platform in drug development work, according to Ben Winterroth, business development manager for EpiVax.
“This is a very important contract for EpiVax as Chugai was previously using another provider of similar services,” said Dr. Anne S. De Groot, the company’s founder, CEO and chief scientific officer, in an email. “The Chugai decision to select ISPRI and OptiMatrix came after head-to-head comparisons over several years with another provider. Their decision to go with the ISPRI toolkit speaks for itself.”
Financial terms of the agreement were not released, although an EpiVax spokesman did confirm that it was for “at least a year.”
ISPRI is designed to screen the components of proteins to measure their ability to provoke an immune response. The platform also maps individual amino acids, the components that contribute most to a protein’s immunogenicity.
The ability to map a protein’s effect on immune systems is a priority to drug developers as protein therapeutics has been increasingly used in medicinal products in recent years, including in treatments such as insulin. According to De Groot, EpiVax has focused on monitoring “Tregitopes,” which help measure the immune responses of T-cells, a particular kind of blood cell.
“While there are many factors that contribute to protein immunogenicity, … [T cell-dependent] responses appear to play a critical role in the development of antibody responses to biologic therapeutics,” De Groot and her colleagues wrote in the forward of a study published by research journal Clinical Immunology.
ISPRI is the only screening system available that takes Tregitopes into account, the release said.
“I believe that [Chugai’s choice to use the platform] was based on superiority of our tools, the importance of the integration of Tregitopes into the analysis, [and] the contributions of the very interactive, approachable team members at EpiVax,” De Groot said.

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