Desentum is preparing to start clinical trials with birch pollen allergy vaccine

Oct 5, 2017

Desentum is approaching first-in-man clinical trials with its lead product candidate, a modified hypoallergen aimed for an immunotherapeutic treatment of birch pollen allergy.

The birch pollen hypoallergen has shown promise in laboratory tests. Next, it needs to be evaluated in clinical trials.

“The goal is to initiate the first clinical study in the first quarter of 2018. It will be a small study resembling a standard skin prick allergy test. Our laboratory tests support the hypothesis on which the hypoallergen design is based. The goal of the clinical study is to investigate human response to a small amount of the hypoallergen.” says Pekka Mattila, CEO of Desentum.

The study will be conducted in Finland. A small group of birch pollen allergic patients and a few healthy volunteers will be recruited.

Desentum’s hypoallergens are based on genetically modifying well-characterized allergens in order to minimize their ability to trigger allergic reactions. Instead, they are hoped to initiate a protective response in the immune system.

“Desensitization has been used for decades to treat severe allergies, but it is a long process and requires strong commitment from the patients. Also, allergic symptoms are common during the treatment until tolerance is built. We want to make the treatment more efficient, less time-consuming, safe and patient-friendly. Desentum has a unique approach, and we are very happy with the results we have received so far. They support our hypothesis on how the allergic reaction can be intervened. We are very hopeful that the clinical study will confirm the laboratory findings.” Mattila continues. 

Crowd funding

To support the clinical trials, Desentum will open a crowd funding campaign in Finland with a local investment service company, Kansalaisrahoitus. The campaign will run through October 2017 unless it is oversubscribed earlier.

Immunotherapy in allergy treatment

Allergy is a disorder of the immune system where a normally harmless environmental substance – such as food, pollen or animal dander – causes an allergic reaction. In Europe, 150 million people already suffer from allergies and the number is increasing rapidly. 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.

About Desentum Oy: Desentum is a biopharmaceutical company based in Espoo, Finland. It is specialized in developing a novel type of allergen immunotherapy based on switching the immune system’s response to allergens from hypersensitivity to tolerance by utilizing modified hypoallergens. Desentum, founded in 2011, is a spin-off company from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. In 2013 VTT received an EARTO Innovation Prize for the work behind the immunotherapeutic products.