Medical and veterinary need
Allergy suffered by humans to companion animals such as cats and dogs and the lack of effective therapies for those who suffer these allergies is an area of significant unmet medical and veterinary need. Cat allergy exemplifies this well. Ten percent of the general human population suffers from cat allergy and ~ 25% of households have cats. Moreover, sensitization to cats is a strong risk factor for children to develop asthma. There is no effective treatment for cat allergy in humans; treatment of symptoms or avoidance of animals are the usually prescribed recourses. Separation of owners and families from their beloved pets is traumatic for both animal and human and in many cases can not even be contemplated. Nevertheless, allergy suffered by owners, friends & relatives is a leading cause of cat abandonment. Sadly, of the 3.4 million cats abandoned annually to U.S cat shelters, approximately 1.4 million of these animals are euthanized. Allergy is also a leading reason for abandonment of cats into urban and native environments. In addition to the suffering experienced by the abandoned animals, problems are created for native fauna through predation.
Saiba Animal Health’s most advanced project HypoCat™, is a vaccine to lower the allergenicity of cats experienced by humans. Fel d 1, a cat protein secreted into saliva and tears and found on pelt, is the principle allergen to which cat allergy sufferers react. Indeed, more than 80% of cat allergic patients have potent allergy-inducing IgE antibodies against this protein. It is known that decreasing exposure of allergic humans to Fel d 1 has a significant benefit on symptoms and health. Our innovative approach is to intervene “at the source“ i.e. lower allergenic Fel d 1 on the cat itself.
To achieve this we are developing a VLP-based vaccine to induce anti-Fel d 1 antibodies in the cat. HypoCat™, is a Fel d 1 virus-like particle conjugate vaccine that has been demonstrated to overcome the inherent immune-tolerance to self-molecules such as Fel d 1 and induce strong and lasting anti-Fel d 1 antibody responses in cats. These antibodies bind Fel d 1 and thus have the ability to lower or neutralize its allergenic effect in humans. The veterinary/medical and commercial potential of the HypoCat™ vaccine was recognized when the company won the Swiss Technology Award in 2013. Subsequently, in 2014, the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation awarded the company with a R&D grant to advance the HypoCat project. Development of HypoCat™ was further advanced through a commercialization, manufacture, and distribution agreement entered into with Benchmark Holdings PLC in September 2014. As part of this collaboration, pilot studies involving cats and human were completed and the first pivotal study commenced. Significant progress on a GMP manufacture process was also made. In 2020, the development and commercialization rights for HypoCat were transferred from Benchmark to a leading global animal health company at which point Benchmark ceased all involvement with the project.
Five percent of the human population is allergic to dogs. People affected by dog allergy often suffer from symptoms like itching, coughing fits or even asthma. They often see no other option than to give away their beloved pet to another family or to a pet shelter. The principle of the HypoCat vaccine may also be applied to address dog allergy in humans. HypoDog™ is our product concept for reducing the allergenicity of canine allergens on the dog itself by vaccinating the dog with our virus-like particle conjugate vaccine. By producing anti-allergen antibodies in the dog, we aim to reduce allergy and asthma symptoms caused by dogs in humans. It is our goal to save dog owners from the difficult decision to give away their beloved pet due to dog allergy or live with the health consequences of their allergy. Our HypoDog™ project is currently in the early phase of lead generation. We will be able to leverage many of the learning from the HypoCat™ project to facilitate development of HypoDog™.