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Startup focuses tumors with CAR-T; AbCellera grabs USD 105M; Gilead inks USD 2B deal; GSK’s anti-BCMA antibody receives a boost

Posted on May 28, 2020 by Anuj

pharma-news

The startup focuses on glioblastoma tumors with CAR-T therapy.

CAR-T technology that involves genetically modifying a patient’s immune cells to recognize and attack cancer. However, while the innovation has helped patients with certain blood malignancies, progress in solid tumors remains restricted.

The scientists at McMaster University and the University of Toronto have developed a CAR-T therapy for the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma. It aided in reducing the burden of the tumour and enhanced survival in mouse models as published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The researchers launched a startup known as Empirica Therapeutics, which targets to bring the CAR-T drug into clinical trials in recurrent glioblastoma patients by the year 2022. For each CAR-T construct, T cells are modified to develop a particular structure known as a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which proffers the cells the ability to identify a specific protein on cancer cells. The two FDA-approved CAR-Ts, Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead Sciences’ Yescarta, are directed toward CD19. The CAR-T cell Empirica is developing targets CD133, also known as prominin-1.

AbCellera grabs USD 105 Million for series B funding round.

Canadian biotech AbCellera has grabbed a significant USD 105 million series B funding round as it focuses on boosting its antibody work and quest for new potential meds against COVID-19.

Its supporters are Peter Thiel, PayPal founder and tech/occasional life science investor, and Eli Lilly, which has helped it becoming a central figure in the fight against the pandemic.

The biotech joined the race to create a therapy against the SARS-CoV-2 virus by obtaining a blood sample from one of the first U.S. patients for recovery from the pathogen. Having gained the sample, AbCellera showed 5 million immune cells in quest of ones that made the functional antibodies that aided the patient to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

The screening recognized 500 or so fully human antibody sequences. With the project now progressing to an evaluation of the antibodies’ effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, AbCellera enlisted Lilly to keep the program moving forward.

Under that agreement, AbCellera and Lilly will divide initial development costs. After that, Lilly will acquire and try to get the candidate via development, manufacturing and talks with regulators as soon as possible.

Gilead inks USD 2 Billion deal with Arcus.

Gilead Sciences is paying USD 175 million upfront with a USD 200 million equity investment weighted in. Arcus Biosciences could also catch up to USD 1.225 billion in opt-in and milestone payments to its present clinical product drugs.

The deal highlights Gilead is joining giants like Merck and Roche in the race to bring an anti-TIGIT antibody to market that could be the future of immuno-oncology, while also benefitting a hand in the checkpoint inhibitor research space.  

Arcus Biosciences has moved its anti-TIGIT candidate, AB154, into a phase 2 trial in patients with non-small cell lung cancer recently. In the trial, Arcus expects AB154 shows improved efficacy of anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors. The potential for the targeting of TIGIT, another immune checkpoint, to improve the efficacy of drugs like Merck’s hit PD-1 Keytruda, has fascinated the interest.

GlaxoSmithKline’s anti-BCMA antibody receives a boost. 

BCMA-targeting medicine of GlaxoSmithKline shrank tumors in one-third of patients with advanced multiple myeloma. The antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) is filling its case as the British drugmaker waits for the agency’s decision now.

The company will show seven more months’ worth of data, which will show the response rate remained steady at 32%. Of the 97 patients that got the lower dose of the treatment, belantamab mafodotin, 31 had their tumors shrunk, and five patients saw them disappear.

The essential phase 2 study investigated two doses of belantamab mafodotin around in 200 patients with multiple myeloma, who had returned after treatment or had not reacted to the treatment in the first place. The patients had attempted a median of seven other treatments, covering an immunomodulatory drug, a proteasome inhibitor and an anti-CD38 antibody-like Johnson & Johnson’s Darzalex. The response rates for both doses were similar. However, the study investigators suggested the lower dose for future work as it caused fewer side effects. 

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