Three New Collaborations Inked to Advance New Therapies, Vaccines

Partnership concept

Collaborations are essential for the advancement of asset development in biopharma and on Monday, three different partnerships were formed in hopes of addressing diseases of concern.

Agenus and Targovax Partner on KRAS Cancer Vaccine

Agenus, Inc. and Targovax forged a clinical collaboration that will pair Targovax’s TG mutant KRAS cancer vaccines with Agenus´s approved QS-21 STIMULON adjuvant. The development of a cancer vaccine requires the addition of an adjuvant in order to stimulate antigen processing and T-cell priming. Targovax’s TG vaccines are combinations of peptides that are designed to generate polyvalent immune responses against the most frequent mutations in the RAS gene family. Those mutations drive up to 30% of all cancers, the companies said.

The vaccine candidate of choice, TG01, has previously shown promise in Phase I/II studies. The selected adjuvant is Agenus’ QS-21 STIMULON, which was described as a purified, natural saponin that has been studied in more than 120 clinical studies. In those studies, QS-21 STIMULON consistently demonstrated powerful antibody and cell-mediated immune responses. QS-21 STIMULON is the adjuvant used in Shingrix, the shingles vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, as well as that company’s malaria vaccine, Mosquirix.

Targovax will pair QS-21 STIMULON with TG01 in three clinical trials for different cancer indications. The collaboration can be extended if certain milestones are met. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Elixirgen and Taisho Target Aging

Elixirgen Therapeutics and Taisho Pharmaceutical Co. also entered into a three-year research collaboration to address diseases associated with aging. What diseases the partners intend to address were not disclosed in the announcement.

The partnership is expected to leverage Maryland-based Elixirgen’s ZSCAN4 therapy platform to advance potential treatments of aging-associated diseases in humans. In the announcement, Elixirgen said Taisho will provide its “experience and expertise in the research and development of therapeutic products” to the partnership.

On its own, Elixirgen is assessing the ZSCAN4 therapy platform in a Phase I/II clinical trial in telomere biology disorders with bone marrow failure, a rare disease indication.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Tonix and Mass General Team up Again

Also announced, Tonix Pharmaceuticals and Massachusetts General Hospital signed a second collaboration to advance the development of TNX-1500, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets the CD40-ligand, for the prevention of organ transplant rejection. This collaboration is expected to focus on kidney transplants. A previous collaboration between the company and hospital focused on heart transplant.

Under terms of the collaboration, the research team will study TNX-1500 in kidney transplantation in a variety of models including non-human primates. The company hopes the collaboration will lead to the advancement of TNX-1500 as a potential first-in-class therapeutic to prevent and treat kidney transplant rejection.

“A substantial body of evidence in humans and animals indicates that mAbs targeting CD40-ligand have the potential to be an important therapeutic option for preventing or treating transplant organ rejection and as a treatment for autoimmune disorders,” Seth Lederman, president and chief executive officer of Tonix said in a statement.

Lederman noted that first-generation anti-CD40-ligand mAbs were limited due to safety concerns, though some of those concerns were reduced in second-generation programs. TNX-1500 is a third-generation anti-CD40-ligand mAB, which has been designed to offer improved efficacy and safety, he stated.

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