Proactive product discovery

Inserm Transfert and GSK sign agreement on immune checkpoint modulators for cancer treatment.

Ilene Schneider
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PARIS—Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) founded in 2000, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the world's fourth-largest pharmaceutical company, have signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement to develop therapeutic antibodies targeting an immune checkpoint molecule for the emerging area of immuno-oncology.
The agreement is based upon Inserm research developed by Prof. Daniel Olive and his team at CRCM-Institut Paoli-Calmettes (IPC) that aims to investigate the function of immune-checkpoint molecules such as ICOS (inducible T cell co-stimulator). This protein, along with other co-stimulatory proteins, plays an important role in immune responses and could be a potential major target for both cancer and other therapeutic strategies. According to Olive, “We are very excited about this agreement with GSK; this is a real opportunity to bring potentially innovative products to the patient faster. This research outcome is the result of close collaboration with several teams located in Léon Bérard Cancer Center, in La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and in IPC.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Inserm Transfert has granted GSK exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the monoclonal antibodies, which modulate ICOS on the surface of T cells and enhance anti-tumor immune responses. In addition to an undisclosed upfront fee, Inserm Transfert will receive milestones from GSK linked to the development of the product or products, as well as royalties on sales from any product that is successfully commercialized as a result of the collaboration.
Augustin Godard, executive vice president and head of the open innovation business unit at Inserm Transfert, believes that the agreement demonstrates the capability and the depth of Inserm research, which remains anchored to the clinic and the discovery in biology creating true translational research. As he explained in the news release about the agreement, “Our long-term strategic alliance with GSK is making progress and illustrates a shared vision by GSK and Inserm Transfert that successful development of new drugs requires proactive accomplishment and alignment from both sides. This is even more important in early drug discovery in order to identify tomorrow’s successful products, and one of the key success factors is the alliance management and the relationship, considered as key success factors in partnerships.”
Godard added that Inserm and related institutions bring to the agreement “the knowledge of the target and the understanding of the biology and the products” (monoclonal antibodies against ICOS). GSK, he said, provides “its product optimization capability to take a product (mAb) to market, including manufacturing, regulatory, marketing and clinical trials.”
GSK, according to Godard, will have the main role of taking any products forward and designing one or more commercial products with support of Inserm Transfert. It is GSK’s job “to choose the disease domain and clinical path that allows a quick and competitive launch onto market” and to position products “in relation to the existing other products and most probably in some cases in combination.”
Godard said that all clinical trials would be managed by GSK. The duration of the agreement is linked to the duration of the product and patent, he added.
Godard noted that it is too early to comment on the commercial potential of the products, explaining: “All we can say is that our product development program would be a response to all the immunomodulation products to which a large portion of patients do not respond. It is noteworthy that Science magazine has designated cancer immunotherapy as the 2013 breakthrough. It relates to all the clinical potential and impact on patient management.”
Inserm Transfert, which manages European and global research projects and supports large-scale projects in epidemiology and public health, is dedicated to technology transfer (from invention disclosure to industrial partnership). Since 2009, Inserm Transfert has run a proof of concept fund. The company is also committed to seed financing in the biotech sector, through its dedicated seed fund company Inserm Transfert Initiative. Based in the United Kingdom, GSK is a multinational pharmaceutical, biologics, vaccines and consumer healthcare company.

Ilene Schneider

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