EDMONTON, May 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Biomira Inc. (TSX:BRA) and Inno- centre Alberta announced today a collaborative agreement to create a spin- off company. The Company, Oncodigm BioPharma Inc., will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of a promising cancer therapy. The therapy, Liposomal-Interleukin-2 (L-IL-2), is projected to re- enter clinical trials in 2005.
Biomira had previously suspended clinical development of L-IL-2 in order to focus attention on Biomira's two lead product candidates, Theratope(R) vaccine and BLP25 Liposome Vaccine (L-BLP25). The new Company, to initially be 90 per cent owned by Biomira and 10 per cent owned by Inno-centre Alberta, is seen as an excellent vehicle for moving this product candidate back into clinical trials, while Biomira remains focused on Theratope and L-BLP25.
Operating capital is to be independently raised by Oncodigm BioPharma. Biomira will initially provide two board members, Robert Aubrey and Edward Taylor. These individuals will be able to provide expertise in marketing and business development and corporate finance, respectively.
"We are extremely excited about this creative financing vehicle for moving L-IL-2 back into clinical trials," said Alex McPherson, MD, PhD, President and CEO. "The Inno-centre approach is perfect for Biomira. Inno- centre, among other things, provides assistance with respect to raising funds for the new Company and provides a Senior Business Advisor, in this case David T. Howard, Chairman of SCOLR, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company located in Redmond, WA and Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc., a world leader in the emerging field of drug-coated medical devices and biomaterials, located in Vancouver, BC. Mr. Howard will provide experienced support that will increase the opportunity for this product candidate to successfully develop through the clinical trial process. We believe that the participation of Inno-centre adds real value and the structure allows both organizations to profit from the arrangement. Costs to Biomira are relatively low, with the potential upside of a market in the range of Canadian $150 to $300 million annually."
"We are enthusiastic about working with Biomira to accelerate the development of L-IL-2," said Hugh MacNaught, VP Life Sciences and Agribusiness for Inno-centre Alberta. "The formulation has demonstrated promise for improving the therapeutic index of a drug that has shown activity against a wide spectrum of tumours. Our objective is to commercialize a product that is far more potent and less toxic than currently available products. Managing this development within a new company will create greater value for Biomira stakeholders and provide many benefits to the academic and technology communities in Alberta."
Oncodigm BioPharma intends to quickly put in place a management team to create a clinical development plan for moving this product forward, likely in metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Biomira's L-IL2 is protected by both in- licensed and Biomira patents and has orphan drug status in the U.S. and Europe, as well as an open IND in both of those jurisdictions.
Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is an important natural molecule of the immune system. IL-2 is important in helping to make stronger humoral (antibody) and cell-mediated immune responses. Biomira's L-IL-2 is made up of modified IL-2 captured in a lipid droplet. The movement and distribution of L-IL-2 within the body are different compared to free IL-2. Pre-clinical studies have shown that L-IL-2 helps IL-2 remain in the serum for a longer time. Also, L-IL-2 increases the build-up of IL-2 in some tissues of the immune system. These changes in how the body handles IL-2 may help to build stronger immune responses. They may also reduce toxic effects often seen with the use of free IL-2. The use of L IL 2 may help patients and physicians, as it might need to be given less often than free IL-2.
Pre-clinical studies have shown that L-IL-2 may be better than free IL-2 in slowing tumour growth and spread. Studies have also shown that L-IL-2 may be better than free IL-2 in helping the body to mount specific immune responses against tumours.
Biomira used L-IL-2 in a Phase I study in patients with several kinds of cancers. Most of the patients in the study had either melanoma or kidney cancer.
Biomira is a biotechnology company specializing in the development of innovative therapeutic approaches to cancer management. Biomira's commitment to the treatment of cancer currently focuses on the development of synthetic vaccines and novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy. We are The Cancer Vaccine People(TM).
Inno-centre Alberta is a private, not-for-profit company dedicated to accelerating the creation and development of successful technology ventures. Inno-centre uses a proven proprietary business model that features the provision of two years of business and financing mentorship to candidates that are approved by an independent Selection Committee comprised of commercially- experienced Venture Capital investors and successful technology entrepreneurs. Inno-centre is contributing to the immediate success of the technology and academic communities in Alberta by enabling a greater scope and scale of technology development than would be otherwise possible, providing direct economic benefit and new jobs for the Province.
This release may contain forward-looking statements. Various factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in forward-looking statements, including those predicting the timing and results of clinical trials, availability or adequacy of financing, the sales and marketing of commercial products or the efficacy of products. Although the Company believes that the forward-looking statements contained herein are reasonable, it can give no assurance that the Company's expectations are correct. All forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement.
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