French biotech sets up exosome plant to deliver proteins and vaccines

Ciloa says its exosomes can ‘deliver’ large molecules and viral proteins to specific organs and is setting up a clinical plant in Montpellier, France.

The €1 million ($1.2 million) investment will be used to create an exosome production unit at Ciloa’s site in Montpellier. The facility will be a technological demonstrator that will be the prototype for larger projects of production of customized exosomes, capable of producing around 1,000 doses to support early clinical trials, the firm told us.

Exosomes are natural nanovesicles – 0.1 µm of diameter, thus with a volume millions of times smaller than a cell – that are produced by every cell in the body and are used to facilitate intercellular communication by shuffling molecular payloads between cells.

Image: iStock/Joaquin Ossorio-Castillo

“These vesicles are a kind of a balloon that contains proteins and RNA, protected by a skin made of a lipidic membrane, in addition different proteins are embedded in this membrane,” a Ciloa spokesperson told us. “All together, this look like a postal package with an address (the membrane embedded protein) to deliver its content (protein and/or RNA) specifically to the organ targeted (thanks to the address).”

The pharma industry looks at exosomes as a delivery system to get drugs to cells without prompting an adaptive immune response, and Ciloa’s in vivo production technology aims to make them so they can be customized with any protein – something the spokesperson told us is unique.

“Even proteins that never go on exosomes and even complexes of several associated proteins… Competitors modify proteins that are already present on regular exosomes, but no new exogenous proteins that never go naturally on exosomes.”

By adding a given molecule with a therapeutic function inside the exosome and adding a protein that recognizes specifically a cell or an organ on the surface, Ciloa aims to obtain a “kind of natural missile with a therapeutic payload. This missile is self-guided and will target specifically a diseased organ.”

Meanwhile, for vaccines, we were told: “We are able to add imbedded in the exosome membrane, a viral protein that is present at the surface of a virus (the spike protein of a coronavirus, for instance). The result is an exosome that mimic perfectly the virus (appearance, shape, size), but with no other components of the virus, particularly no harmful components.

“In addition, due to the intrinsic functions of the exosomes in the transmission of immune response against pathogens, we will benefit of the natural “adjuvant” properties of the exosomes. In few words, we have a natural vaccine.”

Ciloa is working with several biotechs and pharma firms, though for now these artnerships remain confidential.

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