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AstraZeneca signs immuno-oncology deal with UK firm

Published on 16/04/15 at 01:38pm
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MedImmune is AstraZeneca’s biologics unit

UK pharma and biotech firms AstraZeneca and Immunocore are teaming up to launch early-stage studies of potential new cancer treatments.

AZ’s biologics arm, MedImmune, will conduct Phase Ib and Phase II clinical trials of several investigational immuno-oncology treatments for melanoma, and trial next-generation cancer treatments being developed by the UK biotech company Immunocore.

The Oxfordshire-based outfit is developing a new immuno-oncology platform technology called ImmTACs, a novel class of biologic drugs based on the company’s T cell receptor technology. The hope is that the technology can cancer, viral infections and autoimmune disease, by stimulating the human immune system to attack the cells that cause these diseases.

Immunocore will conduct a Phase Ib/II clinical trial combining two of MedImmune’s investigational checkpoint inhibitors, MEDI4736 and/or tremelimumab, with Immunocore’s IMCgp100, as a potential treatment for metastatic melanoma.

The companies will collaborate to establish the best dosing regimen for combination in the Phase Ib study, while the Phase II study will assess the safety and efficacy of the different combinations.

MedImmune has an exclusive deal with Immunocore to develop IMCgp100, and will have first dibs on the negotiation of future rights to develop combinations for other tumours. The two companies already partner on an oncology research deal that could be worth up to $320 million to design cancer vaccines.

“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,” says 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.”

Immunocore recently announced that Professor Sir John Bell, a former scientific director at AstraZeneca who is heading the advisory group on the government’s Innovative Medicines Review, will join their board of directors.

Eliot Forster who is Immunocore’s chief executive, says: “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.”

Lilian Anekwe

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