Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. and SmartPharm Therapeutics, Inc. announced the signing of a letter of intent for Sorrento to acquire SmartPharm, a gene-encoded therapeutics company developing non-viral DNA and RNA gene delivery platforms for COVID-19 and rare diseases, with broad potential for application in enhancing antibody-centric therapeutics, including against COVID-19. The transaction is expected to close in August 2020. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sorrento and SmartPharm previously announced a research and development collaboration to encode and express in vivo Sorrento’s proprietary SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies utilizing SmartPharm’s Gene Mab plasmid nanoparticle platform.
Sorrento plans to accelerate the development of multiple candidates for in vivo gene-encoded expression of Sorrento’s antibodies, starting with Sorrento’s previously announced STI-1499, or COVI-GUARD™, which is currently moving through preclinical and manufacturing requirements with an IND submission targeted for August 2020. The initial clinical trial for STI-1499 is expected to be in ICU patients to ensure safety and potentially allow a preliminary look at efficacy. In vitro results so far have demonstrated STI-1499’s ability to completely neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection at low doses, making STI-1499 Sorrento’s lead candidate for potential cost-effective passive protection against COVID-19.
SmartPharm’s Gene Mab™ platform delivers to muscles a novel low-immunogenic DNA plasmid encoded with a therapeutic antibody for long-lasting expression in vivo. If clinical trials are successful, a single administration of STI-1499dpi (DNA plasmid injection) could allow the recipient’s own muscle cells to produce the antibody for a prolonged period of time after a single injection, potentially providing extended protection against COVID-19 for periods of time that might provide an alternative to vaccines. Manufacturing of DNA plasmids (in bacterial fermenters) can be done with Sorrento’s in-house cGMP capabilities for a fraction of the cost associated with traditional antibody manufacturing.
“We are very encouraged by the preclinical data generated thus far by our STI-1499 neutralizing antibody against COVID-19,” said Henry Ji, Ph.D., CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics. “We are excited about the prospect of leveraging SmartPharm’s Gene Mab platform in combination with our G-MAB library to produce next-generation gene-encoded antibody candidates against a host of pathogens and cancer cell types. Being able to stimulate the body to produce in vivo our most potent antibodies at optimized manufacturing costs will offer an additional competitive advantage as Sorrento transitions from product development to full scale manufacturing and commercialization.”
About SmartPharm Therapeutics
SmartPharm Therapeutics, Inc. is a privately held, development stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing next-generation, non-viral gene therapies for the treatment of serious or rare diseases with the vision of creating “Biologics from Within.” SmartPharm is currently developing a novel pipeline of non-viral, gene-encoded proteins for the treatment of conditions that require biologic therapy such enzyme replacement and tissue restoration. SmartPharm commenced operations in 2018 and is headquartered in Cambridge, MA, USA.
About Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc.
Sorrento is a clinical stage, antibody-centric, biopharmaceutical company developing new therapies to treat cancers. Sorrento’s multimodal, multipronged approach to fighting cancer is made possible by its extensive immuno-oncology platforms, including key assets such as fully human antibodies (“G-MAB™ library”), clinical stage immuno-cellular therapies (“CAR-T”, “DAR-T™”), antibody-drug conjugates (“ADCs”), and clinical stage oncolytic virus (“Seprehvir™”, “Seprehvec™”). Sorrento is also developing potential antiviral therapies and vaccines against coronaviruses, including COVIDTRAP™, ACE-MAB™, COVI-MAB™, COVI-GUARD™, COVI-SHIELD™ and T-VIVA-19™.