Tiny Biotech Advaxis, Inc. Inks Another Pact With Merck & Co. To Test Immune Therapies Against Prostate Cancer

Published: Aug 26, 2014

Tiny Biotech Advaxis, Inc. Inks Another Pact With Merck & Co., Inc. To Test Immune Therapies Against Prostate Cancer Tiny Biotech Advaxis, Inc. Inks Another Pact With Merck & Co., Inc. To Test Immune Therapies Against Prostate Cancer

August 25, 2014

By Jessica Wilson, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Advaxis, Inc. , the Princeton, NJ-based clinical-stage biotechnology company, has announced a clinical trial collaboration agreement with Merck & Co. , the White House Station-NJ based pharmaceutical company. Advaxis is developing and hoping to commercialize cancer immunotherapies based on a propriety platform that uses engineered Listeria monocytogenes to redirect the immune system to kill caner. The planned Phase I/II clinical trial will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Advaxis’ ADXS-PSA as a standalone treatment and also in combination with Merck’s pembrolizumab, an injectable monoclonal antibody, in patients with previously treated metastatic prostate cancer.

Daniel O’Connor, CEO of Advaxis, stated that his company would pay for the study, which a contract research organization (CRO) will likely begin in early 2015. “If the combination of drugs shows an added effect, the companies would likely continue their collaboration,” perhaps under a licensing deal, said O’Connor in an interview with Ransdell Pierson of Reuters.

David Mauro, executive director of oncology at Merck, who was quoted in the same article, said, “We think this combination gives us the opportunity to do early exploration in prostate cancer and bring immuno-oncology into this space.”

Dr. Yvonne Paterson, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, founded Advaxis with the goal of creating a cure for cancer. Paterson, who was recently named one of PhamaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in Life Sciences has been a key figure in the development of immuno-oncology. Her research, spurred by her own diagnosis with breast cancer, into Listeria monocytogenes led directly to the development of Advaxis’ Lm-LLO cancer immunotherapy, the foundation of the companies treatment pipeline.

According to the company, “The Advaxis Lm-LLO technology, using bioengineered live attenuated Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, is the only known cancer immunotherapy shown in preclinical studies to neutralize Tregs and MSDCs, that protect the tumor microenvironment from immunologic attack and contribute to tumor growth.”

Advaxis, which is considered a small company in the pharmaceutical space, reached an agreement last month with another behemoth in the pharmaceutical industry, the London, UK-based AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), to collaborate in a clinical study. This Phase I/II clinical study will evaluate the use of Advaxis’ ADXS-HPV together with AstraZeneca’s drug MEDI4736 in patients with cervical cancer and head and neck cancer, all of which promote the growth of tumors that are closely linked to infection with the human papillomavirus.

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