What You Need to Know About Immune-Onc Therapeutics
Immune-Onc Therapeutics launched in September 2016 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., where it focuses on developing therapeutic antibodies for immuno-oncology treatments.
The company has inked licensing deals with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. In addition, in June 2017, it was selected to participate in the StartX Med Accelerator Summer 2017 Program. StartX is a Stanford University-affiliated nonprofit organization.
Charlene Liao, Immune-Onc Therapeutics’s chief executive officer, president and co-founder, told BioSpace, “As the name suggests, it is a company focused on advancing first-in-class immuno-oncology therapeutics to improve the lives of patients with cancer. Our scientific framework emphasizes targeting immune-suppressive cells to mobilize the host’s systemic immunity. We believe we hold the keys to some of the crucial immune-suppressive cell types in the tumor microenvironment.”
Charlene Liao – Chief Executive Officer, President and Co-Founder. Prior to founding Immune-Onc, Liao was Project Team Leader, Portfolio Management and Operations with Genentech. Prior to joining Genentech, she was Director of Business Development for Rigel.
Guo-Liang Yu – Co-Founder. Guo-Liang Yu is the founding president of the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association.
The company launched with a $7 million Series A financing. Major investors included Fame Mount Limited and CLI Ventures. “Immuno-oncology drugs are transforming cancer care worldwide,” Liao said in a statement. “We are grateful for the support of our Series A investors who share our vision to pursue novel therapeutic antibodies targeting the immune system and tumor microenvironment. Our immune-oncology programs leverage the latest scientific insights to advance new treatment options for cancer patients.”
Liao told BioSpace that the company is actively discussing a Series B financing with leading venture capital firms.
In a June statement, Andrew Lee, the co-founder of StartX Med said, “Immune-Onc is developing a strong portfolio of innovative immuno-oncology drugs with first-in-class potential. With the wealth of industry expertise in drug discovery and development coupled with relentless focus on execution, they will be achieving exciting new milestones while working with StartX.”
Liao said, “Since the inception of our company, we have built an impressive pipeline of innovative immuno-oncology drugs with first-in-class potential. Our lead program is in IND-enabling stage, with anticipated IND in the first half of 2019. It is a novel therapeutic antibody for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), with the possibility to expand to solid tumors.”
For several years, now immuno-oncology has been the hot area in oncology treatment. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America there were more than 240 immuno-oncology treatments in development. One of the big developments of 2017 was when Gilead shortly after acquiring Kite Pharma had its CAR-T immuno-oncology product, Yescarta, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Not long after, Novartis’ Kymriah, another CAR-T product, was approved by the FDA. There are numerous companies, big and small, working in this area.
“We believe we have a lead position in developing novel therapeutics against a family of targets that are expressed in myeloid cells, among others,” Liao told BioSpace. “Therefore, our competitors could be companies with active programs targeting myeloid derived immune suppressive cells (MDSC).”
Dollars and Deals
In March 2017, Immune-Onc signed an exclusive worldwide license deal with Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Under the terms of the agreement, Immune-Onc acquired the exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize novel biotherapeutics for cancer immunotherapy and other diseases. In addition, Immune-Onc and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine launched a multi-year research collaboration to identify and develop a new generation of biotherapeutics that modulate the immune system.
In a statement, Liao said, “Einstein is recognized globally as a premier medical institution focused on discovery and translation of innovative biomedical research to clinical applications. MSK is the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center and is renowned for having successfully produced nine U.S. FDA approved drugs. Immune-Onc is very pleased to license innovative biotherapeutic candidates from Einstein and MSK. We are honored to partner with world-class investigators at Einstein to provide new treatment options for cancer patients in the near future.”
In April 2017, the company signed a license and collaboration agreement with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Under that deal, Immune-Onc acquired the exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize novel biotherapeutics with applications in cancer and other diseases. It also has a multi-year research collaboration with UTHealth and UTSW to develop biotherapeutics. It will leverage the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibody Lead Optimization and Development Core Facility at UTHealth to advance lead antibodies from academic labs.
What to Look For
The company hopes to move into the clinic in 2019. Liao noted, “Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. Our lead program in AML offers a fast-to-market development path to address this significant unmet medical need. Immune-Onc has assembled a strong team of drug development experts from leading biopharmaceutical companies. With the wealth of industry expertise in drug discovery and development coupled with relentless focus on execution, we will be achieving exciting new milestones.”