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AstraZeneca and MedImmune in oncology research deals

Published on 12/01/16 at 10:21am
Credit: MedImmune

AstraZeneca and its biologics arm MedImmune are launching new agreements with partner companies, to develop new targets for cancer, and to trial existing lung cancer drugs.

The first deal, with Moderna Therapeutics, will see the UK firms in a collaboration to discover, co-develop and co-commercialise messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutic candidates for a range of cancers.

Messenger RNA-based therapies are an innovative treatment approach that enables the body to produce therapeutic protein in vivo, opening up new treatment options for a wide range of diseases that cannot be addressed today using existing technologies. The collaboration will combine MedImmune’s protein engineering and cancer biology expertise with Moderna’s mRNA platform, led by its oncology-focused venture, Onkaido.

The collaboration is in addition to an agreement, announced by the companies in 2013, to develop mRNA Therapeutics for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases as well as selected targets in oncology.

The existing agreement means AstraZeneca holds exclusive access to select any target of its choice in cardiometabolic diseases, as well as select targets in oncology, over a period of up to five years for subsequent development in mRNA. Several projects are progressing towards clinical development under the arrangement, and a first-in-human study is expected to commence later in 2016.

Under the terms of the new agreement, AstraZeneca and Moderna will collaborate on two specific immuno-oncology programmes, chosen because of their promising pre-clinical data. Moderna will fund and be responsible for discovery and preclinical development of product candidates, with the aim of delivering one investigational new drug application-ready molecule for each of the two programmes, while AstraZeneca will be responsible for early clinical development.

The two companies will share the costs of late-stage clinical development, and will co-commercialise resulting products in the US under a 50:50 profit sharing arrangement. AstraZeneca will lead ex-US commercialisation efforts, with Moderna receiving tiered royalties up to substantial double digits on ex-US sales.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive at AstraZeneca, says: “We’re pleased to be expanding our relationship with Moderna with this new collaboration, to advance the potential of pioneering messenger RNA technology in developing game-changing new treatments for cancer patients.”

And Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel says: “Since our companies’ original strategic agreement in March 2013, Moderna’s relationship with AstraZeneca has been very fruitful. This new agreement with AstraZeneca demonstrates the effectiveness of our existing relationship and the power of our mRNA technology.”

Meanwhile AstraZeneca also signed an agreement with Incyte, to trial Incyte’s JAK-1 inhibitor, INCB39110, in combination with AstraZeneca’s EGFR inhibitor, Tagrisso (osimertinib). There is some evidence that the combination may be beneficial in people with lung cancer and the Phase I/II studies will include people with EGFR mutation-positive non-small cell lung cancer. The combination will be studies as a second-line treatment.

Results from the study will be used to determine whether further clinical development of this combination is warranted.

Antoine Yver, head of oncology, global medicines development at AstraZeneca says: “We are pleased to be building on our existing relationship with Incyte and exploring a potentially exciting combination for lung cancer patients who have developed a resistance to first generation EGFR inhibitor treatment. This collaboration allows us to explore further ways in which Tagrisso can help meet urgent unmet patient need, following its accelerated approval in the US and the recent positive CHMP opinion, recommending approval in Europe.”

Rich Levy, chief drug development officer of Incyte said: “The expansion of our research collaboration with AstraZeneca will allow us to further our understanding of these two compounds and explore their potential synergies which support our goal of delivering innovative medicines that will benefit patients with cancer or other diseases.”

Lilian Anekwe

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