MD Anderson on a Roll with Another Pharma Deal, This Time with Artios and ShangPharma


Only a day after The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced it has partnered with Takeda Pharmaceutical on immuno-oncology therapies, MD Anderson announced it was involved in an in-licensing deal with Artios Pharma and ShangPharma.

Under the new deal, Artios Pharma licensed rights to research, develop, manufacture and commercialize products globally from a small-molecule ATR inhibitor program that was jointly developed by MD Anderson and ShangPharma. Artios Pharma, based in Cambridge, UK, plans to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the second half of 2020.

ATR is a signaling protein in DNA double-strand break repair and replication stress. Inhibiting ATR can kill tumors that have an ATM deficiency. This occurs through a process dubbed synthetic lethality. Many types of cancers have high levels of ATM mutations and protein loss, which makes them particularly promising targets for cancer therapeutics.

“We are proud of the entire collaboration team, including ChemPartner, led by Sarah Lively, PhD, vice president of Innovation and New Technologies, for advancing the program from early-stage research to formal drug discovery and development,” said Walter Moos, chief executive officer of ShangPharma, which is based in China and San Francisco. “We are pleased to transition this important program to the capable development team at Artios, and we hope this ultimately provides an impactful therapy for those afflicted with cancer.”

The ATR inhibitor program is the results of a collaboration between MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery group and ShangPharma. The Therapeutics Discovery team was created within MD Anderson to promote the next generation of cancer drugs.

After clinical studies at MD Anderson, Therapeutics Discovery worked with ShangPharma and its affiliate, ChemPartner, to develop small-molecule inhibitors of the DNA Damage response (DDR) that would be effective across several cancer types.

“Targeting DNA damage repair has the potential to provide an important therapeutic option for many patients in need of new treatments,” said Philip Jones, vice president of Therapeutics Discovery at MD Anderson. “We are pleased Artios will leverage its unique expertise in this field to advance this novel therapy toward the clinic to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”

No financial details were disclosed.

Yesterday, MD Anderson and Takeda announced an exclusive license deal and research agreement to develop cord-blood derived chimeric antigen receptor-directed natural killer (CAR NK)-cell therapies. They say these CAR-NK therapies will be “armored” with IL-15 to treat B-cell and other cancers.

Under the deal, Takeda will access MD Anderson’s CAR-NK technology platform and pick up the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize up to four programs. Those programs include a CD19-targeted CAR-NK-cell therapy and a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-targeted CAR-NK therapy. They will collaborate on research to advance the programs.

“Our vision is to improve upon existing treatments by developing armored CAR NKs that could be administered off-the-shelf in an outpatient setting—enabling more patients to be treated effectively, quickly and with minimal toxicities,” said Katy Rezvani, professor of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at MD Anderson. “With their expertise in hematologic malignancies and commitment to developing next-generation cell therapies, Takeda is the ideal collaborator to help our team advance CAR NK-cell therapies to patients in need of treatments.”

MD Anderson’s allogeneic CAR NK technology platform collects umbilical cord blood, isolates NK cells for it, and then engineers those NK cells to express CARs against specific cancer targets. They utilize a retroviral vector to deliver genes to the CAR NK cells, which both improves their effectiveness and fine-tunes them for specific cancer cells. The CD19 CAR makes the cells even more specific for B-cell malignancies, and the IL-15 improves the proliferation and survival of the CAR-NK cells in the body.

Back to news