Angany’s choice to confront peanut allergy early on may seem evident. Afterall, not only is it one of the most common food allergies affecting children but it is also one that typically persists into adulthood. The condition affects between 1.5 and 3% of children in Western countries and close to 6M US citizens in total. Yet many other factors come into the decision-making of selecting a target for a project which will require years of commitment from a large team of very skilled individuals before it translates a promise into a clinical reality for millions of people.
A diagnosis of peanut allergy means an immediate, dramatic, and so far, permanent change to your life and that of your family. At best, you can achieve some degree of tolerance through desensitization but you remain at risk of anaphylaxis. An adrenaline auto-injector must follow you everywhere. And we have not begun to talk about the mental charge and bullying, etc. We, at Angany, understand this. This reality is at the heart of our team’s reflection and planning of our clinical development program.
A new approach to allergy immunotherapy
Angany brings a totally new approach to allergy immunotherapy. A protective immune response is generated by the administration of allergens in a way that mimics viruses. Angany’s first-in-class biosynthetic vector presents allergens as pseudo-pathogens, somewhat like we currently do in vaccination against infectious diseases. This new generation of “biologics” must go through rigorous testing before getting approval from regulatory authorities such as the FDA, Health Canada or the EMA in Europe. These agencies certainly seem very curious regarding Angany’s upcoming products yet they rightfully place safety above all. And so does Angany.
The risk of anaphylaxis is typically less (but by no means zero) with respiratory allergens than with food allergens. This is why we decided very early on that we should begin clinical trials (in-human) with a respiratory allergen first (a cat allergy). Once the expected feature of marked hypoallergenicity (safety) of the cat allergy product is validated, it will be safer to proceed with a peanut allergy product.
Allergen, prevalence and need
The very allergens responsible for reactions in peanuts are in fact few. This is in contrast with fish and shellfish where several, very different kinds of proteins may need to be dealt with in order to provide reliable protection to people with such allergies. Therefore, both the prevalence of peanut allergy and a narrow allergen target to be addressed argue in favour of a choice of a peanut vaccine candidate as Angany’s first therapeutic in the food allergy space. There is also a dearth of solution for adults with peanut allergy. Current desensitization products are indicated for children only.
The socio-economic impact
Also considered in the decision is the wide coalition of interests and support regarding peanut allergy. From growers to allergy advocates, health providers and business people, there is recognition that peanut allergy is a societal emergency. Peanut is a nutritious food item widely present in our daily lives. An allergy to peanuts affects individuals in schools, in restaurants; it must be accommodated by the travel and hospitality industries. It impacts peanut growers and shellers and more widely, the food industry as a whole. Peanut allergy impacts health but also carries far-reaching socio-economic consequences. Hence fast-track designation previously granted by the FDA for some peanut allergy therapeutics.
The final argument maybe more philosophical. So formidable is peanut allergy in its impact on society that those who can bring a compelling solution to it will provide hope that we will indeed, one day soon, see the end allergy.