GSK and MD Anderson enter into cancer immune therapy deal potentially worth more than $335 million

Under terms of the agreement, MD Anderson grants GSK exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the antibodies, which activate OX40 on the surface of T cells

Jeffrey Bouley
HOUSTON—The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)have signed a research collaboration and license agreement to develop newtherapeutic antibodies that promote an immune system attack against cancer. Specifically, the deal terms stipulate that MD Anderson grantsGSK exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the antibodies,which activate OX40 on the surface of T cells. MD Anderson, through its new Institute for AppliedCancer Science (IACS), will collaborate with GSK to conduct preclinicalresearch on the antibodies.
 
The overall value of the deal to MDAnderson over the life of the agreement could ultimately exceed $335 million.Under the terms of the agreement, MD Anderson will receive an upfront licensepayment and funding for IACS research collaboration activities, as well aspayments for reaching various development, regulatory and commercial milestones. Inaddition, MD Anderson will also qualify for royalties on commercial sales of products developed under the collaboration, should the partners make it to market with any of the antibodies.
 
The antibodies were discovered by Dr. Yong-JunLiu, and colleagues when he was professor and chair of MDAnderson's Department of Immunology.
  
 
"This agreement is not only a tribute to theability of MD Anderson scientists to discover new targets and potentialtherapies against those targets for cancer patients, it's also a testament tothe vision shared by GSK and MD Anderson that successful clinical developmentof oncology drugs requires seamless integration of drug development expertiseand deep biological knowledge," said Dr. Giulio Draetta, the director of IACS, in the news release about the agreement. "The IACS was formed to enable precisely such integration toexpedite the accurate translation of great science into drugs. T
he IACS is a drugdevelopment engine with industry-seasoned scientists embedded in acomprehensive cancer center, and as such is ideally suited for this type ofcollaboration."
 
 
The IACS also is a key part of MD Anderson's ambitious Moon Shots Program, which is focusing on eight cancers to start with, looking to focus "resources and diver to significantly reduce mortality inthe short term and promote cures long term." Unleashing a patient's own immune system on an invading cancer is a pivotal part of this strategy, with MD Anderson noting that malignant cells are an abnormality that usuallyattracts a response from the body's immune system, "yet cancer often survives byevading or thwarting anti-tumor immunity. Consistently unleashing the power ofthe immune system against cancer would be a major step forward for cancerpatients."
 
While T cells are lymphocytes, and thus part of the immune system,
"T cell recognition of a tumor antigen is notenough to activate the T cells against cancer cells; they need a secondarysignal to tell them 'that antigen you have is a bad thing, you have toattack,' said Liu, who is now chief scientific officer and vice presidentof the Baylor Research Institute of the Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.
 
 
OX40 is one of the secondary or co-stimulatoryreceptor proteins necessary in this process. Liu and colleagues found that when it is activated, itenhances immune attack and blocks suppressors of immune response.
 
 
"It's gratifying to see MD Anderson and GSKtake this important step towards translating a basic science discovery into apotential new therapy that can proceed to clinical trial," Liu said.
 

SOURCE: MD Anderson news release
 

Jeffrey Bouley

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