MD Anderson Cancer Center to Earn $100 Million From Intrexon and ZIOPHARM Oncology for Immunotherapy Game-changer

Published: Jan 14, 2015

MD Anderson Cancer Center to Earn $100 Million From Intrexon Corporation and ZIOPHARM Oncology
January 14, 2015
By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and its oncology partner, ZIOPHARM Oncology, Inc., announced on Jan. 13 that they have entered a broad exclusive licensing agreement with the University of TexasMD Anderson Cancer Center. The facility will receive consideration of $100 million, payable in shares of Intrexon and ZIOPHARM’s common stock. MD Anderson will also earn between $15 to $20 million annually over three years for research and development.

"Genetically engineering our patients' immune-system T cells to efficiently attack and destroy cancer cells represents one of the most exciting approaches with curative potential in oncology today," said MD Anderson President Ron DePinho. "We believe coupling MD Anderson's unique CAR T cell approach with the powerful technologies of ZIOPHARM and Intrexon will allow us to build T cells that hit cancer harder, with greater precision, under tighter control and with potentially fewer side effects for patients.”

The licensed technologies involved in the deal come from the laboratory of Laurence Cooper, a professor of pediatrics at MD Anderson, and Perry Hackett, a professor within the College of Biological Sciences at Minnesota. The respective laboratories have pioneered the design and investigation of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies.

"It is a shared vision to maximize the speed and breadth of multigenic innovation for patients through the use of nimble, non-viral DNA cell manufacturing strategies that can further overcome viral packaging constraints and economic limitations," said Gregory Frost, senior vice president and head of Intrexon's Health Sector."

A Look at the RheoSwitch Therapeutic System
Intrexon’s technology and ZIOPHARM’s RheoSwitch Therapeutic System will be key components of T-cell testing in the agreement, but what is the RheoSwitch technology?

Intrexon describes it as a gene switch, which is activated by a small molecule ligand. It can be used to regulate the timing, location and concentration of gene expression. RheoSwitch has several benefits, including a positive safety profile when used in cell and gene-based therapies. Products using RheoSwitch technology are currently in Phase I and Phase II clinical trials for melanoma and breast cancer.

In the melanoma trial, adenoviral vector Ad-RTS-IL-12 used the technology.

“Being able to regulate the expression of IL-12 through a gene therapy strategy provides for the ability to optimize response and tolerability in ways that cannot be achieved with recombinant proteins or other drug delivery strategies,” said Gerald Linette, associate professor of medicine and neurosurgery at the Division of Oncology at the Washington University School of Medicine.

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