Finnish biopharmaceutical company Desentum Oy completed a First-in-Human clinical study last year with an immunotherapeutic hypoallergen targeted for treating birch pollen allergy. In January 2022, the company raised 8 million euros in a funding round arranged by Springvest Oyj. Desentum intends to use the proceeds for funding further clinical development, R&D of new hypoallergens and business development.
Desentum develops novel immunotherapeutic hypoallergens, so called allergy vaccines. The hypoallergens are biotechnologically produced, modified allergen proteins aimed for improving the efficiency of allergen immunotherapy while also reducing the time required for treatment. The lead product candidate, birch pollen hypoallergen DM-101, has passed a First-in-Human clinical study. In the study, DM-101 was found to be safe and well tolerated with the highest of the tested dosing regimens, and immunological marker results indicated a favourable change in the markers associated with a protective response.
“We are very happy to have completed the clinical study despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The preclinical models available for testing allergen immunotherapy products are indicative at best, so the First-in-Human clinical study was an important milestone towards the clinical Proof-of-Concept. Although this was an early-phase study, the results are very encouraging and provide valuable information for planning the next study”, said Pekka Mattila, CEO of Desentum. .
To strengthen the company’s financial position, Desentum initiated a funding round in January 2022. It was carried out by a Finnish investment service company Springvest Oyj. The public offering was fully subscribed in two days, which translates to 8 million euros of collected capital. Desentum plans on using the majority of the proceeds for funding further clinical development. The remaining funds will be used for the research and development of new hypoallergens – especially grass pollen and peanut – as well as for partnering activities to support late-stage clinical trials and market access.
“Allergy treatment is still waiting for a breakthrough that would free hundreds of millions of people from the yearly misery during pollen season or the fear of common food items. Desentum is working towards this kind of a breakthrough. Safety of the patients is the basis of all drug development, and the goal is naturally a product that is clinically proven safe and efficacious. Desentum’s team is very motivated and experienced, and we have connections to international experts as well as top-class research groups and service providers. We are determined to continue towards both our scientific and business goals, and this funding provides us with the resources to focus on achieving the goals”, says Mattila.
Immunotherapy in allergy treatment
Allergy is one of the most common chronic conditions in Europe. Today, more than 150 million Europeans suffer from allergic diseases. For one in five patients the condition is severe enough to create a constant threat of a severe allergic reaction or an asthma attack. European Academy of Allergy and Clinical immunology (EAACI) predicts that by 2025 allergy will affect half the population in Europe. Allergies cause social and economic burden such as health care costs, missed school and work days and impact on the daily lives of the patients.
Allergies are generally managed by medication that alleviates the symptoms. The most common medications are antihistamines and corticosteroids. Immunotherapy is the only treatment currently known that affects the mechanism of allergy. It re-educates the immune system to tolerate the allergen, decreasing the need for medication. Immunotherapy can be administered as injections or sublingual tablets or drops, and the treatment usually takes a few years. The novel immunotherapeutic products that are under development aim for speeding up the treatment as well as improving the safety, efficacy, and convenience.