NANTES, France—OSE Immunotherapeutics SA announced in September that it has entered into an agreement with Inserm Transfert—on behalf of Inserm, a French public organization dedicated to human health—and Université de Nantes to collaborate on the development of a cancer immunotherapy targeting a new suppressive myeloid cell receptor (a C-type lectin receptor). This agreement includes a worldwide and exclusive license option for OSE to further develop any product candidate emerging from this collaboration following the planned conclusion of the partnership.
Dominique Costantini, CEO of OSE Immunotherapeutics, said, “The identification of this new target allows us to expand our presence in the highly attractive field of myeloid cells and macrophages, well-identified as poor prognostic factors in oncology and in immune escape mechanisms of existing cancer immunotherapies.”
This research collaboration will focus on the development of an antibody that targets a newly identified C-type lectin receptor to block suppressive functions of myeloid cells and to restore antitumor response of T-lymphocytes. Suppressive myeloid cells have the ability to accumulate in the tumor microenvironment and to deregulate the immune activation of T-lymphocytes.
This new target was discovered by Dr. Elise Chiffoleau during her research on the mechanisms of immune tolerance in transplantation. Chiffoleau is a member of the research team led by Pr. Régis Josien, director of the Center for Research in Transplantation and Immunology (CRTI) of Université de Nantes. The CRTI is a joint research unit created by Inserm and Université de Nantes in 2012 and renewed in 2017.
According to Bernard Vanhove, chief operating officer in charge of R&D and international scientific collaborations at OSE Immunotherapeutics, “Dr. Chiffoleau induced tolerance to heart allografts in the rat by manipulating the immune system. She observed that the tolerant recipients, which accepted the graft without immunosuppressive treatment, were characterized by increased expression of an undisclosed target on their dendritic cells, and that knocking out this target prevented tolerance induction. The experiment stressed the important role of this target in the way dendritic cells collaborate with cells involved in adaptive immunity (T-lymphocytes), specifically in driving them towards an immune response or an immune tolerance.
“The OSE R&D team, in collaboration with Dr. Chiffoleau, will validate the drug candidate throughout its development and optimization in relevant preclinical models. Antibody development is following a traditional path: humanization, antibody engineering, cell line construction, development of an upstream and a downstream production process, production of pilot and GMP batches, preclinical toxicology and then first-in-human study in patients (since we are in the field of immuno-oncology). OSE Immunotherapeutics has internal know-how related to each of these steps but also leverages select partnerships.”
Chiffoleau commented, “The primary benefit of this collaboration is the strong synergy between our research in immunology and a biotech company expert in the field of cancer immunotherapy.”
“OSE Immunotherapeutics first signed a global partnership with [Inserm/CRTI] on December 2015,” Vanhove notes. “As part of the initial agreement, several research scientists and technicians from the company were integrated into the Inserm’s labs to collaborate on multiple immune tolerance-related research projects.
“In this context, we were privileged to work with Dr. Elise Chiffoleau, who approached us and presented her new target molecule. She wished to work together to more rapidly advance the potential clinical translation of her findings. We established a dedicated collaboration agreement with Inserm to establish the IP rights and a development plan. We intend to develop a novel cancer immunotherapy targeting myeloid cells based on the target identified by Dr. Chiffoleau. This partnership will enable us to further evaluate the therapeutic potential of this new target.”
Pascale Augé, CEO of Inserm Transfert, added, “Inserm and Inserm Transfert are very satisfied to strengthen long-term collaborations with growing and well-established companies. This agreement demonstrates the dynamism of public/private partnerships between French academic research and French biotechnology companies.”
“OSE and Inserm have a long history of collaboration,” Vanhove tells DDNews. “Initially in 2007, OSE collaborated with Inserm on the development of FR104, the first-ever CD28 antagonist, which is now licensed to Janssen and is planned to be the subject of a Phase 2 clinical trial to treat rheumatoid arthritis. To develop FR104, OSE and Inserm have led, between 2012 and 2015, a European consortium named TRIAD, which included several international labs that were brought together because of their capabilities to perform preclinical proof of concept and safety studies.”
“Our goal at OSE Immunotherapeutics is to leverage our knowledge of the immune system to discover and develop breakthrough medicines that can modulate the immune system to fight cancer and combat inflammation,” says Vanhove. “In order to establish cutting-edge drug development strategies, we need strong research capabilities, which cultivate novel ideas stemming from the fundamental study of immunology in translational models of human disease.”