Aimmune Gets $200M From Nestlé; Licenses Food Allergy Drug Candidate

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Last week the FDA approved an Aimmune Therapeutics drug for children with peanut allergies, the first oral immunotherapy for a food allergy to get the agency’s nod.

On Wednesday the Brisbane, CA-based biotech announced that one of its backers, Nestlé Health Science, had made a new $200 million equity investment that it will use to support its launch of the new drug, Palforzia. The investment will also help Aimmune (NASDAQ: AIMT) advance an experimental antibody it has licensed from Xencor (NASDAQ: XNCR), which initially developed it for allergic asthma. Aimmune sees the investigational drug as a potential complementary treatment to its oral immunotherapy programs for food allergies.

By adding to its stake in Aimmune, the Swiss food giant’s nutrition-focused subsidiary’s total investment to date is now $473 million.

The experimental Xencor drug, now renamed AIMab7195 by Aimmune, reduces a protein called IgE, which the body produces in response to perceived threats, including allergens. But in some people, these antibodies react with a certain food (such as peanuts), and cause allergy symptoms. The drug also suppresses cells that produce those antibodies.

Aimmune, which is responsible for all development costs related to the Xencor drug, says it wants to explore the potential of combining oral immunotherapy—which works by desensitizing patients to an allergen over time—with drugs that reduce the immune system’s dangerous reaction to allergy-causing proteins.

The company agreed to pay Monrovia, CA-based Xencor $5 million cash and another $5 million in equity—equivalent to about 156,000 shares of its stock at $32 apiece—to license the experimental drug.

Under the deal terms, Xencor is eligible for up to $385 million more based on clinical development, regulatory, and commercialization milestones, starting once Aimmune begins a Phase 2 trial of AIMab7195. Xencor will also be eligible for a percentage of royalties if the drug reaches the market.

Aimmune initially plans to explore how patients with food allergies react to a combination of its oral immunotherapy and the Xencor antibody drug, which has been tested in two Phase 1 studies that enrolled about 100 healthy volunteers and patients with allergy and atopic disease.

On the heels of the approval of its peanut allergy treatment, Aimmune is developing a similar program for people with egg allergies, and plans to initiate a third, targeting people with tree nut allergies. These drugs are intended to work in a similar way to Palforzia.