LONDON—An investment group comprised of Loxbridge Research LLP and Animatrix Capital LLP has founded a new biopharmaceutical company to develop novel immunotherapeutics for cancer, to be based in London and California. The company, Agaliummune Ltd., will have a focus on solid tumors and will use its funding to continue moving Alphaject, a leading immunotherapeutic technology licensed from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, toward the clinic.
“The development of immunomodulatory therapies is an exciting and rapidly emerging field, which hopefully will lead to improved anti-cancer treatments for patients. We welcome Loxbridge Research and Animatrix Capital as investors,” Mike Westby, CEO of Agalimmune, commented in a statement.
“Agalimmune is the first therapeutic investment we have made at a stage when the technology has already been in patients, and we are honored to be working with proven innovators UMass Medical School and Dr Galili, in furthering this promising treatment toward the eventual benefit of people battling cancer,” Dr. Charles Roberts, M.D., CEO of Loxbridge Research, said in a press release. “The investment we are making in the technology represents an upper mid-size in our portfolio, and whilst it will follow our investment model in general, we are delighted to welcome in a dedicated and industry-experienced team from the outset, given the relatively late stage of the technology.”
Alphaject is based on the research of UMMS Professor of Surgery and Medicine Uri Galili, Ph.D., who discovered the anti-gal immune response and the role it plays in ‘hyper-acute’ organ rejection. The technology makes use of that immune response to encourage the immune system to reject tumors the same way it might reject an organ transplant. The Alphaject compound is injected directly into tumors and coats the tumor cells in alphagel, which causes it to give off a foreign antigen. This bypasses the immune tolerance tumors develop, and is thought to encourage an acute rejection of the tumor, resulting in its immediate targeting and destruction by the immune system. This approach is also thought to offer long-term protection by encouraging increased immune surveillance.
“Immunotherapy holds great promise as a potential cancer treatment because it allows the body’s own immune system to identify and eradicate cancer cells,” Giles Whalen, M.D., professor of surgical oncology at UMass Medical School and principal investigator for the early clinical trials to develop the Alphaject technology. “One of the great benefits of this approach is that the immune system can seek out and attack even the smallest traces of tumor anywhere in the body. What makes Alphaject so remarkable is that it’s designed to alert the immune system and respond to a specific type of cancer cell. Unlike other immunomodulatory therapies, which may stimulate the immune system to attack cells indiscriminately, this helps ensure healthy cells don’t get mistakenly targeted and destroyed.”
The lead compound utilizing the Alphaject technology is currently in clinical development in melanoma, Agalimmune notes on its website, and has completed a successful first-in-human Phase I study.
SOURCE: Agalimmune press release