AstraZeneca today announced that MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, has entered into a collaboration to conduct clinical trials in immuno-oncology with Immunocore Limited, a privately-held UK-based biotechnology company.
Under the terms of the agreement, Immunocore will conduct a Phase Ib/II clinical trial combining MedImmune’s investigational checkpoint inhibitors MEDI4736 (anti-PD-L1) and/or tremelimumab (anti-CTLA-4) with IMCgp100, Immunocore’s lead T-cell receptor-based investigational therapeutic, for the potential treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma. MedImmune has an exclusive relationship with Immunocore for the development of IMCgp100 in combination with MEDI4736 and/or tremelimumab, and will have first right of negotiation for the future commercial development of these combinations for tumours expressing glycoprotein 100 (gp100), a tumour-associated antigen.
Immunocore and MedImmune will collaborate to establish a dosing regimen for IMCgp100 combined with MEDI4736 and/or tremelimumab within the Phase Ib study. The Phase II study will assess the safety and efficacy of the different combinations.
The companies have a pre-existing research collaboration and licensing agreement, announced in January 2014, to develop novel cancer therapies using Immunocore’s Immune Mobilising Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology.
“We are pleased to expand our partnership with Immunocore, a leader in the discovery and development of novel T-cell receptor-based drugs, to include this combination clinical trial in melanoma,” said Dr. Ed Bradley, Senior Vice President and Head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines unit at MedImmune. “Immuno-oncology is a priority area for us and by employing combinations with biological synergies, we believe we have the potential to enhance treatment effectiveness and ultimately to see improved overall survival rates. Our partnership with Immunocore is further evidence of our belief that combination therapies have the potential to be one of the most effective ways of treating cancer.”
“We are excited to deepen our relationship with MedImmune through this combination study agreement. We look forward to a successful partnership in the development of novel combination treatments in metastatic melanoma, which we believe have the potential to be best-in-class treatments,” said Eliot Forster, Chief Executive Officer of Immunocore.
MEDI4736, tremelimumab and IMCgp100 are members of a new class of cancer treatments known as immunotherapies, which are designed to enhance the body’s own immune system in fighting cancer.
AstraZeneca and MedImmune have a broad programme of immuno-oncology combination trials underway and planned to address multiple immune pathways, harnessing the company’s own extensive pipeline and working in partnership to explore the significant potential of immunotherapies in transforming the way cancer patients are treated.
About IMCgp100 and ImmTACs
Immunocore’s proprietary technology is focused on small protein molecules called ImmTACs (Immune Mobilising mTCR Against Cancer) that enable the immune system to recognise and kill cancerous cells.
ImmTACs have ultra-high affinity for intracellular cancer targets, are synthetic, soluble T cell receptors (TCRs) that recognise diseased cells containing disease specific targets. The ImmTACs enable circulating T-cells to selectively identify and kill diseased cells. The ImmTAC platform is unique and has very high specificity and potency as well as broad applicability to a wide range of intracellular targets. ImmTACs can access up to nine-fold more targets than typical antibody-based therapies, including monoclonal antibodies.
The most advanced ImmTAC, IMCgp100, is currently in Phase IIa clinical trials for the treatment of late stage melanoma. Following completion of a Phase I study at the end of 2013, which showed promising results with an encouraging safety profile and early signs of efficacy, Immunocore initiated a Phase IIa study to optimize the dosing regimen of IMCgp100. Immunocore has a growing internal pipeline of ImmTACs addressing many different cancer types and has developed a broad database of intracellular cancer targets.
MEDI4736 is an investigational human monoclonal antibody directed against programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1). Signals from PD-L1 help tumours avoid detection by the immune system. MEDI4736 blocks these signals, countering the tumour’s immune-evading tactics.
MEDI4736 was accelerated into Phase III clinical development in non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer. The OCEANS clinical development programme will evaluate MEDI4736 as monotherapy and in combination with a CTLA-4 (tremelimumab) in lung cancer, across the spectrum of the disease. In head and neck cancer, MEDI4736 is being investigated both as monotherapy and in combination with tremelimumab, looking at patients with different PD-L1 expression status who have failed on chemotherapy.
Tremelimumab is a fully human monoclonal IgG2 antibody, which stimulates the immune system to destroy cancer cells through binding to the protein CTLA-4, expressed on the surface of activated T-lymphocytes.
Tremelimumab has been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the US FDA for the treatment of patients with malignant mesothelioma. It is also currently being studied in combination with AstraZeneca’s anti -PD-L1 investigational immunotherapy, MEDI4736, in tumour types including non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer. It is also being studied in combination with Iressa (gefitinib) in EGFR mutated non-small cell lung cancer and with MEDI6469 (a murine OX40 agonist) in solid tumours.
Immunocore is one of the world’s leading immuno-oncology biotechnology companies. Immunocore has a pipeline of wholly-owned and partnered ImmTAC programmes with robust clinical data, based on decades of world-leading scientific innovation in the discovery of HLA targets and T cell receptor technology and validated by collaborations with world-leading pharmaceutical companies. Immunocore aims to leverage the utility of its platform across a wide range of indications to become a Premier Biotech company and world-leader in its field.
Immunocore’s world-leading science and strong IP position has attracted major pharmaceutical companies including Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, the biologics division of AstraZeneca, via discovery collaborations, as well as a co-discovery and co-development partnership with Lilly. Founded in 2008 originally out of Oxford University and headquartered outside Oxford, Immunocore now has more than 140 staff. For more information, please visit www.immunocore.com
MedImmune is the worldwide biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of small molecule and biologic prescription medicines. MedImmune is pioneering innovative research and exploring novel pathways across key therapeutic areas, including respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; cardiovascular and metabolic disease; oncology; neuroscience; and infection and vaccines. The MedImmune headquarters is located in Gaithersburg, Md., one of AstraZeneca’s three global R&D centers. For more information, please visit www.medimmune.com.
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit: www.astrazeneca.com.
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