VIENNA—Apeiron Biologics AG, a clinical-stage company focused on cancer immunotherapy, announced near the end of June the signing of an agreement with the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology GmbH (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Medical University of Vienna. The agreement grants Apeiron an exclusive worldwide license to a novel technology targeting casitas B cell lymphoma-b (Cbl-b). Cbl-b is an intracellular checkpoint limiting the immune reactivity in various immune cells, such as T cells and natural killer cells, and was originally discovered by Dr. Josef Penninger, scientific director of IMBA.
According to Apeiron, inhibiting Cbl-b not only distinctly activates immune cells but offers the opportunity to deactivate other relevant checkpoints—including CTLA-4 and PD-L1/PD-1—and thus can be regarded as the “master checkpoint” in cancer immunotherapy. Apeiron is engaged in an innovative cellular immunotherapy project based on the knockdown of Cbl-b (APN401), which is currently in clinical development.
Scientists at IMBA, in cooperation with the Max F Perutz Laboratories of Medical University of Vienna, recently discovered a further novel approach targeting Cbl-b by cell-permeable cbl-b inhibiting peptides.
Apeiron has now licensed this promising new research technology from IMBA, to expand the Cbl-b based checkpoint blockade project portfolio. Under the terms of the agreement, Apeiron will be responsible for further preclinical and clinical development of this IMBA technology. IMBA and Medical University of Vienna will receive an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments and royalties. Further financial terms were not disclosed.
“The in-licensing of this innovative technology allows us to further enhance our presence in the promising area of immune-oncology and strengthens our position in the field of checkpoint inhibitors,” said Peter Llewellyn-Davies, chief financial and business officer of Apeiron. “The agreement expands our portfolio of immunotherapies targeting Cbl-b and is also an excellent example of an academic-industrial partnership maximizing the strengths of both parties.”
Michael Krebs, managing director of IMBA added: “We at IMBA see ourselves as an important player in the value chain of biomedical innovations. The IMBA is developing completely new approaches for the treatment of human diseases and thereby enabling potentially alternative treatment options for patients. This collaboration with Apeiron shows once again that it is worthwhile for the Austrian government to invest in science and that the geographical proximity of excellent academic research and companies, as can be found at the Vienna BioCenter, represents a promising business model.”