Melbourne-based Prota Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that is developing a treatment to achieve clinical remission of peanut allergies, has raised $US21 million ($31.6 million) to progress commercialisation of its product.
The Series A1 round, which comprises a mix of debt and equity, was led by Singapore-based SPRIM Global Investments and comes on the heels of a Series A round that raised $15 million.
Founded and led by Professor Mimi Tang, a physician scientist who was once head of Allergy and Immunology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Prota Therapeutics now has the funds to conduct a Phase 3 clinical investigation of its PRT120 oral therapy for peanut allergy.
“It will allow us to continue with our drug manufacturing and accelerate our path towards an open IND (Investigational New Drug Application) which will then allow us to run the pivotal Phase 3 trial across the US and Australia,” Tang tells Business News Australia.
Prota is aiming to start the Phase 3 trial program in the first half of 2025 as it edges closer to its mission of addressing a market that is estimated will be worth $1.5 billion by 2030.
Prota’s technology, described as a world-first therapy for peanut allergy treatment, is based on more than 15 years of research led by Tang at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
When Tang first ventured into the field of researching a cure for peanut allergies, oral immunotherapy being tested at the time focused on lessening the severity of the allergy.
“It didn’t change the underlying allergy because kids still had to avoid their allergen and they were still having reactions, so it wasn’t a great solution and that’s why I pursued a remission outcome with my research,” Tang says.
Tang, who has spent almost three decades in the field of paediatric allergy immunology, says current treatments offered by physicians revolve around avoiding the allergens and the use of epinephrine pens ‘when you slip up’.
So, after positive results from an initial trial in 2015, which showed a remission in peanut allergy in three-quarters of the sample tested, Tang was forced to make a critical career decision.
As Prota Therapeutics was spun out of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in 2016, Tang was approached to become chief science officer of the company.
Making that move, the researcher gave up a lucrative career as a senior physician at a major hospital for a startup salary at Prota.
“But I have never regretted it and I have never looked back,” says Tang.
“I really needed to be in there to make sure to give it the best shot possible. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I have loved every minute of it.”
Tang, who was elevated to CEO of Prota Therapeutics in 2020, described the company’s remission therapy as a world first that has been shown to induce the highest rates of remissions of any treatment currently reported for standalone oral immunotherapy.
The company’s immunotherapy uses peanut protein which is already the basis for therapies by other companies in the field. However, it is the method of therapy using higher doses of peanut protein that makes Prota’s treatment unique.
“The major impact of food allergies on patients and their families is a severely reduced quality of life,” says Tang, who reveals her son also had a peanut allergy.
“The reason for that is lifestyle restrictions of avoidance and the emotional distress caused by unpredictable reactions.
“With our treatment, this is an important element to achieving remission. In our hands we have shown that when children achieve remission, their underlying allergy has been completely rewired.”
Prota’s therapeutic regimen is proprietary and currently being patented.
The investment by SPRIM Global Investments has been described by Prota’s executive chairman Kelly Constable as a coup in terms of the upcoming clinical trials.
“SPRIM brings valuable expertise, capabilities and an international investment network to Prota's technology and clinical program,” says Constable.
Dr Paul Kelly, founding partner and director of OneVentures which is among Prota Therapeutics’ largest shareholders, says closing financing in the current market ‘validates the potential of Professor Mimi Tang’s technology to deliver meaningful outcomes for patients with peanut allergy, where there is a persistent unmet need’.
“Prota’s treatment offers the promise of an induction of remission of allergy, allowing patients to eat peanuts freely and enjoy an improved quality of life,” Kelly says.
Tang says the validation of the company’s work over many years is among the highlights of the latest capital raise.
“It’s taken a bit of time to raise these funds and I am really excited to have achieve this,” she says.
While commercialisation of Prota’s product may be some years away, Tang’s enthusiasm for the task hasn’t waned after almost two decades of research.
“What I’ve learnt is that it takes a great deal of resilience and perseverance to advance commercialisation in the Australian ecosystem,” she says, adding that remission offers the optimal solution for peanut allergy.
“Long-term follow-up data shows that children in remission have fewer reactions, less rescue epinephrine use, and far greater improvement in quality of life than children who are only desensitised, validating remission as the patient-preferred outcome.”
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