What You Need to Know About Corvus Pharma

What You Need to Know About Corvus Pharma
December 1, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Corvus Pharmaceuticals, located in Burlingame, Calif., focuses on the burgeoning field of immune-oncology. The company was co-founded in 2014 by Richard Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Pharmacyclics, Inc. , and Joseph Buggy, vice president of research at Pharmacyclics. Pharmacyclics was acquired by AbbVie for $21 billion in May 2015.

In particular, Corvus is focused on checkpoint inhibitors. A checkpoint is a molecule or molecular pathway that is produced by cancer cells, which slows down the body’s immune system and allows the tumors to “hide” from the immune cells. A checkpoint inhibitor blocks the action of that checkpoint, allowing the patient’s immune system to target the cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors are often being investigated for use in conjunction with immune system stimulators.

Corvus’ primary pipeline product is a small-molecule drug taken orally. The company has not yet disclosed what checkpoint protein the drug targets, although Miller indicated that it is different than the ones targeted by other checkpoint inhibitors. It drug appears to be effective on its own and in combination with anti-PD-1 or PD-L1 drugs.

Company Leadership
Richard Miller—co-founder and chief executive officer. Before founding Corvus, he was founder and chief executive officer of Pharmacyclics, which was sold to Abbvie. Prior to Pharmacyclics, Miller was vice president and director of IDEC, now Biogen . He received his MD, summa cum laude, from the State University of New York and completed residency and multiple fellowships at Sanford, where he is currently an Adjunct Professor of Oncology.

Joseph Buggy—co-founder and head of Discovery Research. Prior to co-founding Corvus, Buggy was vice president of research at Pharmacyclics. Before that, he was director of biology at Celera Genomics.

Erik Verner—vice president of Chemistry Research. Prior to joining Corvus, he was director of chemistry at Principia Biopharm. And before Principia, Verner was director of chemistry and senior scientist at Pharmacyclics, where he was co-inventor of ibrutinib.

William Ben Jones—vice president of Pharmaceutical Development. He was director of Global Regulatory Affairs in Sanofi ’s oncology division from 2012 to 2014. Prior to that, he was director of Regulatory Affairs and Project Management at Pharmacyclics.

Leiv Lea—is chief financial officer. He had the same role at Pharmacyclics.

Company Financing
Corvus was launched in December 2014 with $33.5 million Series A round led by OrbiMed Advisors. In September 2015, Corvus announced it had closed a $75 million Series B financing. The financing was led by Rock Springs Capital Management and included Fidelity Management and Research Company, Blackrock, T. Rowe Price, Jennison Associates, Roche Venture Fund, Cormorant Asset Management, Sphera Funds Management, venBio Select and Cowen Private Investments. Founding investors, OrbiMed, Novo Ventures and Adams Street Partners also participated.

“We are delighted to attract this pre-eminent group of investors, which provides the capital for Corvus to advance the development of multiple product candidates, including an expansion cohort designed Phase Ib trial that will evaluate our novel oral checkpoint inhibitor alone, and in combination with another checkpoint inhibitor in several different types of cancer,” Miller said in a statement last September.

Currently, the company has a primary compound, CPI-444, a checkpoint inhibitor, which will be advancing into a Phase I/Ib clinical trial in the first quarter of 2016. The company also has two other pipeline programs, which are still in preclinical studies. One is another checkpoint inhibitor. The other is a T-cell reprogramming compound.

Market Competition
Immune-oncology is a hot area, with many companies big and small working in it. Competitors include Juno Therapeutics and CytomX Therapeutics, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is currently marketing Opdivo, a checkpoint inhibitor of PD-1, and Merck markets Keytruda, also a checkpoint inhibitor of PD-1. BMS also offers Yervoy, a checkpoint inhibitor of CTLA-4.

Corvus points out that Opdivo, Keytruda and Yervoy are all intravenous drugs, while Corvus’ pipeline product can be taken orally.

Dollars and Deals
In late October, Corvus announced it had inked a clinical trial collaboration agreement with Genentech , a member of the Roche Group. The two companies will collaborate on a Phase I/Ib clinical trial, which will assess Corvus’ lead oral small molecule immune checkpoint inhibitor, CPI-444. They will study CPI-444 alone and in combination with Genentech’s investigational cancer immunotherapy atezolizumab (MPDL3280A). Atezolizumab is a fully humanized monoclonal antibody that targets PD-L1 and will focus on a broad variety of solid tumors. Corvus will retain global rights to CPI-444.

What to Look For
With a lot of funding and a strategic relationship with Genentech, everyone will be watching for the results of its 2016 clinical trial of CPI-444, as well as any available data on its preclinical pipeline.

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