GERMANY — BioNTech has chosen to sever ties with Matinas BioPharma after an oral mRNA delivery technology failed to demonstrate preclinical activity in an initial mouse study.

The partnership between BioNTech and Matinas began in April 2022 when BioNTech paid US$2.75 million for exclusive use of Matinas’ lipid nanocrystal (LNC) platform in mRNA vaccine delivery.

The collaboration progressed to a study in mice, which ultimately showed no activity for the oral mRNA candidate.

Consequently, BioNTech and Matinas have decided to terminate their collaboration. Matinas disclosed this news through an official statement on May 10.

The in vivo study, conducted in mice, focused on a specific phosphatidylserine-containing nano-formulation of mRNA that was supplied by BioNTech.

This formulation was distinct from traditional lipid nanocrystals (LNCs) and had been developed by Matinas to address the physical complexity and biological fragility of mRNA.

While the formulation had demonstrated success in vitro, the oral administration to mice did not produce the desired activity or response.

This announcement marks the conclusion of a collaboration that lasted just over a year between BioNTech and Matinas. In April 2022, BioNTech made an upfront payment to access Matinas’ LNC delivery platform technology.

At the time, BioNTech expressed great enthusiasm about the potential of the LNC platform for oral mRNA therapeutics.

In a statement, Ugur Sahin, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, emphasized the promising capabilities of the platform for oral delivery.

Despite this setback, Matinas still maintains collaborations with Genentech, a division of Roche, and National Resilience.

The partnership with National Resilience has recently expanded to focus on the in vitro and in vivo delivery of mRNA after BioNTech withdrew from the agreement with Matinas.

Matinas highlighted that the in vivo oral evaluation was conducted according to agreed-upon timelines in the collaboration.

The company remains optimistic about the technology, pointing to other studies it conducted using related mRNA formulations that demonstrated activity when administered intramuscularly and intraperitoneally. Matinas has even filed provisional patent applications for these formulations.

While BioNTech has halted its oral mRNA vaccine project with Matinas, the company’s shares saw an increase following promising early results of a personalized mRNA vaccine for pancreatic cancer.

Meanwhile, Matinas expressed confidence in its approach, emphasizing that internal in vivo studies of similar non-LNC mRNA formulations exhibited activity when administered systemically.

Moreover, these formulations displayed stability for at least 17 weeks at 4 degrees Celsius, suggesting potential advantages in shipping and storage compared to existing mRNA vaccines based on lipid nanoparticles.

This development with BioNTech follows Gilead Sciences’ decision to end its collaboration with Matinas five months ago to focus on its internal COVID-19 antiviral candidate.

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