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Tech Transfer Roundup: MD Anderson, Moffitt Lead Busy Academic Cancer Partnering Space

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MD Anderson Maintains Busy Partnering Pace With German, Chinese Biotechs
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is working with Eisbach Bio GmbH to jointly discover and develop precision oncology drugs that target synthetic lethal engines key to tumor genome evolution. The partners said the tie-up will add MD Anderson’s capabilities to Eisbach’s discovery platform and allosteric assay technology to generate medicines that selectively disrupt genome replication and DNA repair in cancers harboring defined genetic alterations.

Eisbach and MD Anderson together will identify targets and develop small molecule therapies that can shut off specific epigenetic processes, with the intent of disrupting genome control selectively in tumor cells while sparing normal tissues. The agreement, announced 18 January, specifies that the partners will jointly determine the development and commercial pathways for candidates resulting from the collaboration.

On 20 January, MD Anderson agreed with the US subsidiary of Shanghai Yingli Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. to advance multiple oncology programs from preclinical discovery through clinical development. The five-year collaboration will combine Yingli’s experience in medicinal chemistry with the center’s clinical and translational resources. The goal is to bring existing Yingli candidates into four US-based clinical trials and facilitate preclinical discovery and development in additional indications.

Two of the programs will leverage favorable clinical trial findings collected from China-based studies, Yingli said. The first program will focus on linperlisib, a novel PI3Kδ inhibitor, which has been investigated in eight active or completed Phase I and Phase II clinical trials in lymphomas and solid tumors, including peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL).

The second program will develop YL-13027, a novel, oral TGFβR1 inhibitor for advanced solid tumors, with a goal of initiating a US-based Phase I clinical trial in 2022. In addition to advancing existing clinical programs, the partners will conduct translational studies to further Yingli’s discovery programs.

Moffitt Inks Research Pacts With Dyve, Turnstone
Tampa, FL-based Moffitt Cancer Center unveiled a two-year research collaboration on 3 February to study delivery models for Dyve Biosciences’s systemic buffering agent, DYV800. The center will employ its transdermal delivery technology in various laboratory models to support the advancement of DYV800 into focused human trials for specific oncology indications. Preclinical research has shown that pH-adjusting agents can successfully modify the acidic microenvironment within tumors that allow cancer cells to evade treatment.

On 29 November, Moffitt teamed up with Turnstone Biologics, Inc. on a multi-year collaboration focused on preclinical development of investigational tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapies. The tie-up will utilize Turnstone’s next-generation selected TIL approach in multiple solid tumor types and work on the investigational new drug (IND) submission of the biotechs’ lead TIL program, TIDAL-01.

Moffitt and Turnstone will collaborate on the identification, enrichment and expansion of neoantigen reactive TILs in solid tumor indications, including melanoma, breast and colorectal cancers. Turnstone will transfer its proprietary TIL manufacturing process to Moffitt to produce cell products for upcoming clinical studies. Moffitt also will get R&D funding over the course of the collaboration.

Varsity Licenses Homologous Recombination-Deficient Cancer Drug From Dana-Farber
Varsity Pharmaceuticals Ltd. secured exclusive rights on 7 February from Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center to develop and commercialize novobiocin (VP-006), a DNA polymerase theta (pol-theta) inhibitor for the treatment of homologous recombination (HR)-deficient cancers.

Research at Dana Farber has demonstrated that novobiocin, which was developed in the 1950s and previously used as an antibiotic, can be used alone or in combination with PARP enzyme inhibitors to treat HR-deficient tumors, even after they have become resistant to PARP inhibitor therapy. Varsity adds novobiocin to a pipeline of small molecule candidates under development as new therapies for treatment-resistant cancers and plans to initiate clinical studies of novobiocin later this year.

Qualigen Licenses UCL Candidate For Pancreatic Cancer
Qualigen Therapeutics, Inc. agreed on 18 January to license worldwide rights to a genomic quadruplex (G4)-selective transcription inhibitor drug development program, including lead and back-up compounds, preclinical data and a patent estate, from the University College London (UCL). Focused on orphan cancer indications, Qualigen said it hopes to develop the lead compound, QN-302, as a treatment for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Development of QN-302 was supported by the UCL Technology Fund, and with Cancer Research UK funding. A small molecule that targets regions of cancer genes with a disproportionately high number of G4s, QN-302 has shown ability in preclinical studies to selectively bind to G4s, forming a complex that prevents the G4 structures from unwinding at the cancer cells’ key regulatory regions.

By preventing that process, QN-302 would inhibit transcription, the partners said. QN-302 has demonstrated anti-tumor activity in multiple tumor types, including in vivo PDAC models, without toxicity at proposed therapeutic doses. Studies also suggest anti-tumor activity against gemcitabine-resistant tumors, according to Qualigen.

Sana Licenses CD22-Targeted CAR-T Candidate From NCI
Cell therapy specialist Sana Biotechnology, Inc. acquired worldwide commercial rights on 11 January to a CD22 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) with a fully-human binder for use in certain in vivo gene therapy and ex vivo allogeneic CAR-T applications for B-cell malignancies from the US National Cancer Institute (NCI). Sana agreed to pay NCI’s parent, the US National Institutes for Health, an upfront amount along with potential milestone payments and royalties on net sales.

CD22, a B-cell surface protein, could offer an alternative to address the failure to achieve durable complete responses with CD19-directed CAR T therapy, Sana said. Multiple academic trials using NCI’s candidate have shown complete responses in a substantial number of patients in the relapse setting after treatment with a CD19-directed CAR T therapy for patients with B malignancies.

In Brief:
US biotech Biomunex Pharmaceuticals SAS and France’s Institut Curie announced on 7 February that they are investigating a promising new target identified on non-conventional T-cells with a goal of starting clinical development within 24 months on candidates for hematological or solid tumors.

NexImmune, Inc. entered a collaboration on 1 February with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey to focus on the discovery and development of novel therapies targeting immune checkpoint proteins for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors and other cancers.

INmune Bio, Inc. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong unveiled a preclinical research collaboration on 25 January to evaluate the US firm’s pseudokine natural killer (NK) cell priming platform INKmune in nasopharyngeal cancer. If the preclinical study is successful, it could lead to a clinical trial in the US, UK and Hong Kong, the partners said.

TriSalus Life Sciences agreed to collaboration on 20 January with the University of Colorado to advance research into immuno-oncology treatments for patients with liver and pancreatic tumors. Over the next three years, TriSalus will collaborate with university researchers on studies using TriSalus’s proprietary Pressure-Enabled Drug Delivery (PEDD) method for toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist SD-101. SD-101 reactivates the immune system within the organs for targeted tumor killing, the biotech said, while PEDD modulates pressure and flow within blood vessels to improve therapy uptake and tumor response.

Cullinan Oncology, Inc. entered a collaboration on 10 January with the Icahn School of Medicine (Icahn Mount Sinai) to develop novel small molecule immune modulators. The multi-year collaboration and option agreement will center on optimization and development of oral protein degraders targeting hematopoietic progenitor kinase 1 (HPK1), a key regulator of immune cell activation and a high-priority target in immuno-oncology.

Valo Therapeutics Limited licensed intellectual property rights on 6 January from the University of Helsinki for technology that utilizes pre-existing immunity (PEI) against pathogens to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of Valo´s lead platform, PeptiCRAd (Peptide-coated Conditionally Replicating Adenovirus). The collaboration’s aim is enhancing the overall therapeutic efficacy of the PeptiCRAd platform.

Venture capital-backed company incubator Hibiscus Ventures announced on 5 January that it will partner with Detroit’s Karmanos Cancer Center to launch Hibiscus portfolio companies focused on unmet patient needs in oncology.

Nanomedicine firm NaNotics LLC announced a research collaboration on 4 January with the Mayo Clinic to develop a candidate that targets the soluble form of PD-L1. The partners’ goal is to begin clinical trials within two years. Under the collaboration, NaNotics will use its core nano-depletion platform and Mayo will provide an antibody of its own design against PD-L1. NaNotics claims that its NaNots are different from drug therapies in that they deplete soluble targets without engaging membrane forms of the same target, something that drugs generally cannot do, while also offering lower toxicity.

Cell and gene therapy specialist Inceptor Bio, LLC signed a licensing agreement on 16 December with the University of California, Santa Barbara for an investigational chimeric antigen receptor macrophage (CAR-M) therapy targeting difficult-to-treat tumors. Inceptor said the deal will help to advance its next-generation cell therapy platform focused on multiple novel mechanisms to address solid tumors.

BridGene Biosciences, Inc., which employs chemoproteomic technology to address traditionally undruggable targets, agreed on 15 December to partner with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in a drug discovery program using the centre’s ovarian chemoresistance phenotypic screening and BridGene’s proprietary IMTAC (Isobaric Mass Tagged Affinity Characterization) Chemoproteomics platform to discover new targets and small molecule drug candidates for chemoresistant ovarian cancer. BridGene gets development and commercialization rights to candidates emerging from the research program.

Israel’s OncoHost and Lung Biobank Heidelberg said on 13 December that they will work together to identify biomarkers and novel targets and to stratify patient selection for the development of immunotherapy products to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. and Columbia University inked a collaboration on 13 December to develop TNX-1700, a recombinant trefoil factor family 2 (rTFF2)-based therapeutic candidate, in gastric and colorectal cancers. The New Jersey biotech licensed the rTFF2-targeting candidate from Columbia in 2019. (Also see “Tech Transfer Roundup: Trio Of Deals Bolster Spherix’s Cancer Strategy” – Scrip, 18 Oct, 2019.)

SynDevRx, Inc. , focused on cancers that are accelerated by obesity, unveiled a research collaboration on 7 December with Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to study the effects of SDX-7320 in advanced prostate cancer models. The collaboration will study the role of methionine aminopeptidase 2 (MetAP2) inhibition in tumor growth in castration-resistant and other treatment resistant forms of prostate cancer.

Protein drug developer Molecular Partners AG announced a research collaboration on 3 December with the University of Bern to advance acute myeloid leukemia candidate, MP0533, into the clinic. MP0533 is a DARPin designed to engage CD3 on T cells and target AML cells by the tumor associated antigens CD33, CD123 and CD70.

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