Allergies can be alleviated by avoiding the allergens that cause an allergic reaction (e.g. pollen, animal dander, or food), with medication, or via desensitization that boosts immunological tolerance towards the allergen.
“However, it is not always possible to avoid allergens. Medication relieves the allergic symptoms but does not cure the disease itself. While desensitization treatments can permanently eliminate allergies, traditional desensitization usually requires several years of treatment – the patient has to be very motivated and committed to the treatment plan”, Pekka Mattila, the CEO of Desentum, explains.
Biopharmaceutical company Desentum is developing novel immunotherapeutic proteins (sometimes referred to as “vaccines”) that aim at influencing the mechanism of allergy onset, at the molecular level. The structures of hypoallergens (modified allergens) have been altered to minimize the activation of the body’s natural allergic reaction and histamine secretion, while leading the immune system to produce antibodies that help to destroy the allergens.
“Desentum’s goal is to elicit a safe and long-lasting immune response during a treatment period of a few months. This way, permanent results could be obtained significantly faster than with traditional desensitization”, Mattila assures.
Patented high technology
Desentum’s technology is based on scientific findings made at VTT and at the University of Eastern Finland. The company was founded in 2011 and currently employs a staff of 7 people.
At present the company is developing novel hypoallergens for the treatment of the most common allergies – birch pollen, grass pollen, horse, and dog. Product development of the birch pollen allergy vaccine has progressed the furthest – hypoallergens are currently being produced in cleanroom facilities and the results from pre-clinical studies are very promising. The first clinical trials are to be initiated in the beginning of 2018, in collaboration with the HUS Skin and Allergy Hospital.
Desentum’s strength is in the patented technology based on high-class research, and the quality of hypoallergen production. “Both the structure and the production method of hypoallergens are protected by patents”, Mattila remarks.
“At the moment, our biggest challenge is to show that our drug candidates also work in humans”, Mattila emphasizes and continues, “when clinical efficacy has been proven, we will pursue collaboration with the largest companies in the field, such as ALK or Stallergenes Greer”.