SEEK is a leading privately-owned drug-discovery group whose technology and product pipeline is based upon a unique understanding of the human immune system. Headquartered in London, SEEK (formerly PepTcell) began life in 2004 with a pioneering scientific and commercially-driven approach to drug development. It is developing a broad pipeline of breakthrough medicines to address major disease areas.
SEEK’s scientific approach is based upon a new insight into how the human immune system differentiates, at molecular-level, between “self” and “non-self” (“Immune Activation”), combined with an insight into the roles played by different immune cells in taking up and processing molecules to produce a defined and targeted outcome (“Immune Regulation”).
The Immune Activation theory was applied to the development of a vaccine-technology platform targeting highly-mutagenic viruses. The core technology underlying this platform is a proprietary algorithm that predicts the propensity of parts of proteins to bind to molecules on cells and react with immune cells. With this algorithm, the group is able to identify those conserved regions (non-mutating parts) of highly-mutating viruses that are most likely to be binding and reactive and hence generate immune responses. The company then creates vaccines by combining synthetically-produced polypeptides comprising the identified conserved regions. SEEK’s vaccines overcome the normal evading mechanism that viruses employ to stop the immune system from generating sufficient memory of these conserved regions, a major stumbling block of vaccine approaches to date. Using this core technology, the cost and time associated with searching for vaccine candidates is greatly reduced, while accuracy is enhanced. SEEK has developed formulations for a number of vaccines including those for flu, HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Chagas disease, rotavirus and mosquito-borne diseases, based on its technology platform, building a substantial patent portfolio on the vaccine formulations. From 2006, it has focused on taking its leading vaccine products, Universal Flu and HIV, through pre-clinical and clinical research. Both have now successfully completed phase Ib/II clinical trials, establishing safety and efficacy of these vaccines in humans, as well as validating SEEK’s proprietary technology.
Strategic acquisitions have also provided the group with chemical biology and target-identification expertise. Coupling these competencies with SEEK's Immune Regulation technology resulted in the discovery that combining existing small-molecule drug compounds with adjuvants or excipients leads to the creation of new, far more effective formulations. Small-molecule drugs with sub-clinical immune-modulatory activity without the adjuvants are thereby transformed into drugs with clinical significance at the same dose and dosing regime, for the same indication when combined with adjuvants that are specifically designed to encourage the drug’s preferential take-up by a targeted class of immune cells.
Applying its Immune Regulation technology, SEEK has focused on combining existing, off-patent drugs with known safety profiles with proprietary adjuvants and excipients, without changing the approved doses of the existing drugs. Powerful, new clinical effects are generated from these drugs without altering their safety profile, thereby enabling the accelerated development of low-cost drugs with clinical efficacy and new patent life.
In many cases, these new formulations can achieve generic registrations or be eligible for direct to OTC distribution without costly or risky human trials, or be approved by regulators to enter directly phase III human trials, thereby reducing time-to-market and development costs. One such reformulation, BC1054, involves the combination of a very well-established and safe NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) with safe excipients that have been used in many previously-approved drugs. The excipients entice preferential take-up of this widely-used drug by a certain class of immune cells, which are involved in the control of pain and inflammation producing beneficial effects that are not achievable without the adjuvant combination. BC1054 exemplifies SEEK’s ability to create new drugs from existing, well-known drugs, but with multiple levels of clinical efficacy.
Other drugs in late-stage development include BC1036, theobromine and cocoa based treatment for persistent cough, BC1028 a cholesterol-lowering drug and a drug for the treatment of Lupus.
SEEK has an innovative portfolio which comprises a novel platform of anti-viral vaccines with two lead candidates (HIV and Flu) which have successfully completed phase Ib/ II clinical studies and late stage small molecules based on existing drugs/ substances with established safety profile. While SEEK applies its unique understanding of the human immune system in its drug discovery process, it maintains no idea loyalty. Each new drug candidate is scrutinized, rigorously analyzed and discarded quickly if commercially not viable. This approach reduces failure rates, development costs and time-to-market, thus enabling the construction of a diverse, low-risk pipeline of drugs. Seek’s portfolio, derived from pioneering science developed in-house and applied in a commercially driven drug development programme.
On its paths to market the vaccine pipeline follows a biotech model involving clinical progression and partnership agreements as the drug candidates approach late stage development. SEEK’s small molecule pipeline focuses on safe drugs and substances, which are easily accessible for larger patient populations in areas of need and at costs which are affordable for payers and patients. (SANA = safe + accessible + needed + affordable). The low development risk, the short time-to market and the market needs support the incorporation of this part of SEEK’s portfolio into a new legal entity (infirst+ HEALTHCARE) which is tasked to bring products to market and to become a marketing and selling organization.