Avacta Group, the developer of 'Affimer' biotherapeutics and reagents, announced on Thursday that it has initiated a research collaboration with FIT Biotech to assess the effectiveness of developing gene therapies using its Affimer technology combined with FIT Biotech's 'gtGTU' platform.
The AIM-traded company said therapeutic proteins could be delivered to a patient by directly injecting the protein drug, or by delivering the DNA blueprint that encodes the protein into the patient's cells.
It said in that case, the patient's own cells then make the protein drug.
The ideal protein drug must be produced easily by the patient's cells in order that a clinically relevant dose is achieved, Avacta's board explained.
Avacta said its Affimer proteins are small, "very simple" in structure and are easily produced - therefore making them "potentially ideal" for gene delivery.
The research collaboration with FIT Biotech would be Avacta's second in the area of gene therapy, with the same benefits of Affimer technology underpinning the company's existing research collaboration with Moderna Therapeutics.
FIT Biotech's gtGTU vector, which is a technology for delivering genes to patients, was developed to ensure the "stable and prolonged" production of therapeutic proteins by the patient's cells in a safe manner.
The vector thus removes the requirement for frequent administration of biological therapeutics which are cleared from the body after a limited time, Avacta explained.
"I am delighted that we are starting this collaboration with FIT Biotech," said Avacta chief executive Dr Alastair Smith.
"The Affimer technology is an ideal platform for gene delivery, and working with FIT Biotech's powerful gtGTU vector technology could lead to multiple therapeutic benefits and create a best-in-class gene therapy combination with significant potential.
"It is a very exciting prospect and the group is keen to see the initial data from the pilot study which we anticipate will be in the first half of 2018."
James Kuo, chief executive officer of FIT Biotech, said his company was "very much" looking forward to working on the project together with Avacta.
"Affimer technology offers an exciting opportunity to take targeted therapies to a new level," Kuo commented.
"The high target specificity and small size of Affimer molecules combined with gtGTU's ability to produce therapeutics at high level for a prolonged period of time makes this combination potentially very powerful.
"This collaboration follows our strategy of bringing gtGTU to the gene therapy market through strong partnerships."