Cancer Research Technology (CRT), the commercialization and development arm of Cancer Research UK and BioInvent International (OMXS: BINV) today announce the start of a two-year research collaboration with leading antibody researchers at the University of Southampton.
The program aims to develop new immunotherapy treatments for cancer based on preclinical work by the Southampton group showing the potential to treat cancer using antibodies targeting OX40 and 4-1BB – known ‘co-receptors’ that help stimulate the production of killer T-cells during an immune response.
One of the ways that tumour cells avoid detection is by suppressing immune responses to stop functional tumour specific T-cells from being produced. The team aims to develop antibodies that can reverse this process to stimulate the immune system to fight the cancer.
Terms of the collaboration were not disclosed, however, BioInvent has the option to take out a license to commercialise any promising results, with the parties receiving milestone payments and a share of potential revenues.
The first phase of the project aims to identify and then validate the effectiveness of the best class of antibodies to target OX40 and 4-1BB. This work will be carried out in Lund, Sweden, and Southampton, UK, using highly specialised assays and expertise developed through a prior long-standing collaboration between BioInvent and the University of Southampton.
Professor Martin Glennie, who is leading the team in Southampton, said: “Immunotherapy is an extremely exciting field to be working in at the moment. Some of the most promising findings so far have involved drugs that block the signals cancers produce to dampen down the immune system. We’re taking a slightly different approach by engineering antibodies that effectively boost the immune system to recognise and fight the cancer. This research collaboration will develop and refine that approach, paving the way for the first patient trials to begin within the next few years.”
Björn Frendéus, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of BioInvent and honorary Professor at the University of Southampton, said: “The field of Immuno-oncology is rapidly expanding and offers new hope in the treatment of cancers. We will increase the likelihood of identifying successful clinical candidates against OX40 and 4-1BB by accessing unique and complementary preclinical models, and by screening existing preclinical leads as well as generating new leads with our antibody discovery platform F.I.R.S.T.™ together with the team at Southampton.”
Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “We’re pleased to be extending our ongoing relationship with BioInvent, whose cutting-edge antibody technologies will be an asset to this project. This is a prime example of how pooling resources and expertise from both industry and academia makes it possible to bring potential new treatments to patients that may otherwise have taken years to reach the clinic.”
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About OX40 and 41BB
4-1BB and OX40 are members of the TNF receptor superfamily.
4-1BB is expressed on a range of different immune cells including T cells. 4-1BB signalling is a stimulatory signal that enhances T cells. In pre-clinical studies agonistic anti- 4-1BB antibodies stimulate the expansion of antigen-specific CD8 T cells, reverses CD8 T cell anergy, prevents suppression by regulatory T cells, boosts memory CD8 T cell expansion and anti-tumour immunity.
OX40 is expressed on activated CD4 and CD8 T cells, regulatory CD4 T cells, memory CD4 T cells and NKT cells. OX40 signalling is critical for the survival of antigen-primed CD4 T cells and CD4 T cell memory. It plays a role in enhancing survival and effector cell differentiation of CD8 T cells during priming, and is important for T cell expansion during secondary responses. In mouse models of cancer, anti-OX40 antibodies promote anti-tumour immunity through activation of CD8 T cells and the inhibition of regulatory CD4 T cell function within the tumour.
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Information disclosed in this press release is provided herein pursuant to the Swedish Financial Instruments Trading Act. The information was submitted for publication at 8.30 a.m. CET, on 30 March, 2015.