TOKYO, Japan & STRASBOURG, France—NEC Corporation and Transgene have reported the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for a strategic collaboration aimed at the treatment of solid cancers. The companies will cooperate in clinically assessing the predictive capabilities of NEC’s artificial intelligence (AI) and the therapeutic potential of Transgene’s myvac MVA-based viral vector platform in an individualized immunotherapy for the treatment of solid cancers. The experimental products from this collaboration are expected to enter clinical trials in 2019.
“The emerging personalized medicine field holds great potential for the application of NEC’s core technology, and we are pleased to be working with Transgene with the goal of developing state-of-the-art personalized immunotherapies,” said Motoo Nishihara, Senior Vice President, Head of NEC Laboratories.
NEC and Transgene have capitalized on the recent progress in AI and advances in genome sequencing to create individualized immunotherapy, which is adapted to the unique characteristics of each patient’s mutational landscape as well as their predicted immune responses. The product is based on a viral vector (MVA) developed by Transgene with a proven clinical safety track record and is known for its efficient immunogenicity and anti-tumor efficacy in patients. NEC and Transgene will co-invest in the first stage of development of an individualized immunotherapy, which includes clinical trials focusing on ovarian cancer and HPV-negative head and neck cancer.
“Engaging the body’s own immune system in the fight against cancer has shown great promise and sparked unprecedented interest among oncology drug makers,” added Osamu Fujikawa, Senior Vice President, Business Innovation Unit, NEC Corporation. “This makes it imperative for NEC to become part of the immunotherapy race as soon as possible.”
The viral vector will be used to target neoantigens identified using NEC’s proprietary algorithm. NEC has been developing solutions in the drug discovery field for close to two decades. NEC’s neoantigen prediction system was developed and validated based on publicly available databases, as well as internal wet lab datasets, some of which were already used to identify clinically relevant antigens in other oncology indications.
These planned clinical trials leverage the world-leading expertise and technologies of a network of companies and research centers, including NEC’s cutting-edge AI technology, “NEC the WISE,” for identifying and prioritizing patient-specific neoantigens; and Transgene’s unrivaled MVA-based, viral vector technology and the myvac platform.
“This collaboration brings together artificial intelligence and our expertise in viral vector engineering to enable the development of a truly innovative treatment based on the myvac platform,” mentioned Éric Quéméneur, PharmD, PhD, Executive VP, Chief Scientific Officer of Transgene. “We believe that our collaboration with NEC will allow us to provide an efficacious and robust therapy for the many patients who have solid tumors and could benefit from this cutting-edge individualized approach, and to successfully advance the development of the myvac platform to the market.”
According to a September 24th press release from Transgene, two clinical trials are being set up in Europe and in the United States for myvac, including HPV-negative head and neck cancers and ovarian cancer. These trials are expected to start in 2019.
“Based on our know-how in virotherapy, we have successfully integrated sequences coding for neoantigens to create an individualized immunotherapy. By combining sequencing and artificial intelligence with the design of the virus, myvac marks the entry of viral vector-based approaches in the era of digital transformation,” Quéméneur continued. “Importantly we have also set up an organization able to design and manufacture myvac for each patient in a timely and cost-competitive manner. The myvac innovation is a logical evolution of our expertise and a new therapeutic option that promises a major improvement over existing therapies. myvac is also the result of our policy of open innovation which is based on working with partners developing technologies that are complementary to our expertise allowing us to benefit from a multidisciplinary approach.”
In other recent NEC news, a press release on October 25th mentioned that the company will be supporting the Stanford DAWN project, an initiative to simplify the building of AI-powered applications, by providing a cluster of new SX-Aurora TSUBASA vector computers for research in the area of Artificial Intelligence.
In recent years, a broad range of applications using AI have been proposed. But since AI processing requires enormous computational power, there are many cases where it is difficult to adopt. In order to help address this issue, NEC has provided four SX-Aurora TSUBASA A300-4 models to the Stanford DAWN project in order to contribute to AI research. The SX-Aurora TSUBASA is NEC’s latest model of vector supercomputer, featuring scalability from a desktop computer to a large super computer for accelerating AI and data analytic applications.
Yuichi Nakamura, Vice President, NEC Central Research Laboratories noted, “We are very pleased to support the Stanford DAWN project. We hope to help demonstrate the value of vector computing to the advancement of AI domains.”