Sanofi will buy Austria’s Origimm Biotechnology, founded in 2014, which specializes in identifying virulent components of the skin microbiome and bacterial antigens that cause skin diseases such as acne vulgaris.

Origimm’s know-how is represented by its proprietary ProVaDis (Protection-based Vaccine Discovery) technology for the detection of highly protective antigens by reverse functional screening, which significantly increases the probability of successfully selecting the most suitable candidate antigens that offer maximum protection against the damaging effects of bacteria.

One of Origimm’s assets is represented by the recombinant protein-based vaccine ORI-001, which is being developed against the bacterium Cutibacterium acnes (formerly called Propionibacterium acnes). This Gram-positive anaerobic bacterium, which colonizes skin follicles, is a human skin commensal as well as an opportunistic pathogen that contributes to the pathophysiology of acne.

Origimm’s approach involves selecting the proteins that C. acnes uses to enter human cells and hide from or evade the immune system. These bacterial virulence-enhancing proteins, once in the vaccine, are then used to strengthen the skin’s immune system and train it to respond more effectively.

In theory, the prescription of ORI-001 should limit the growth of C. acnes and thus prevent scarring and skin damage. If ORI-001 proves effective, the vaccine will be useful in both preventing and treating acne.

The experimental ORI-001 vaccine recently entered an OREA (NCT05131373) phase 1 clinical trial: participants with moderate facial acne vulgaris are given it or a placebo — intramuscularly or intradermally once a month.

At the same time, Sanofi is thinking about creating additional antigen variants using Origimm’s expertise: they will be studied in a comprehensive phase 1/2 clinical trial, which is scheduled to launch in 2023. Future acne vaccines are said to be based on mRNA technology.

Sanofi does not have its own developments in the mRNA vaccine sector, so it will be helped by others. Thus, in September 2021, the French pharma giant paid $3.2 billion to acquire Translate Bio, which works on mRNA vaccines against diseases such as cystic fibrosis, pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), influenza, and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD).

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In November 2021, Sanofi gained access to LinearDesign, an algorithmic mRNA sequencing optimization platform developed by Baidu, a Chinese Internet giant whose interests extend far beyond Internet search. LinearDesign will solve the problem of the instability of mRNA vaccines and drugs, which seriously affects their storage, distribution, and efficacy. LinearDesign relies on two key algorithms: LinearFold to predict secondary RNA structure and LinearPartition to predict base pairing probabilities.

Overall, Sanofi’s plans for mRNA vaccines are very ambitious. In the next five years, the drugmaker hopes to become a leader in this area. For this purpose, the plan is to develop and release a lot of mRNA vaccines against such diseases as influenza, meningitis, respiratory syncytial virus, pneumonia, and chlamydia.

Acne vulgaris is a widespread and stigmatizing disease for millions of people worldwide, carrying a significant psychological burden for adolescents as well as adults, as approximately 10% of them continue to suffer from acne. To date, there is no satisfactory acne treatment that combines high efficacy with acceptable safety.

Recent advances in pharmacological science in the treatment of acne include:

  • The cream Aklief (trifarotene), developed by Switzerland’s Galderma, which is a fourth-generation retinoid.
  • The foam Amzeeq (minocycline) by Israel’s Foamix Pharmaceuticals, which has figured out how to make a topical version of this systemic antibiotic.
  • The cream Winlevi (clascoterone) produced by Italy’s Cassiopea, which became the first acne medication with a fundamentally new mechanism of action in the last four decades: a topical inhibitor of androgen receptors.
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Julia Mardi

BioPharma Media’s Scientific Editor.

Julia strives to recognize in advance in which direction the pharmaceutical industry is moving. Her professional interests include gene therapy, immune checkpoint inhibitors, molecular biology, and drug repurposing.

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