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Could dMAb shake up infection and cancer treatment?
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa.—Two peer-reviewed scientific papers recently confirmed that Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ DNA-based monoclonal antibody program demonstrates measurable impact on prostate tumors and in preventing infection from a pneumonia-causing bacteria in preclinical studies.
The Inovio dMAb construct utilizes engineered synthetic DNA to encode therapeutic monoclonal antibodies targeted to bind PSMA. When delivered directly into the body, the genetic instructions provided from the dMAb construct enable the patient’s own cells to become the factory which manufactures the therapeutic monoclonal antibody products. Studies recently published in the journal Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy and in Nature Communications appear to provide peer-reviewed confirmation of the sophisticated capabilities built into the Inovio dMAb technology.
Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s president and CEO, said, “These two newly published studies … support that Inovio’s potent dMAb platform could be expanded to target cancer and bacterial diseases along with viral infectious diseases. Our dMAb program represents a new application of our potent DNA technology platform to develop valuable new treatments for cancers and infection.”
Inovio’s delivery mechanism has the potential to shake up the conventional monoclonal biotechnology market, accounting for over $50 billion in sales today. Monoclonal immunotherapy has proven to be a phenomenal treatment class and is now widely available—though extremely costly—for treating cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease and colitis, asthma and hepatitis C. Currently, the antibodies needed for the associated drugs are manufactured outside the body, often in big vats that must then be purified and converted to human form, leading to significant risks and side effects.
Using just an antibody blueprint, Inovio dMAb is able to precisely arrange the DNA sequence in the most effective arrangement and deliver the protein map directly into the body, allowing the muscle to become the factory without adding bio-reactors that can cause toxic side effects. The products offer simplified design, rapidity of development, product stability, ease of manufacturing and deployability and cost effectiveness, thereby providing potential new avenues for treating a range of diseases.
Over the last two years, Inovio has made significant advancements in their product. They have received $60 million in R&D support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation, the last of which approached Inovio and challenged them to find a cheaper and more effective treatment for Zika, the flu and Ebola. “They urged us to find a way to democratize lifesaving drugs in developing countries,” says Kim.
The company believes that dMAb products could extend the medical benefits that marketed monoclonal antibodies have already achieved, and even potentially address diseases that conventional monoclonal antibodies cannot. The dMAb antibody has been successfully proven to shrink prostate tumors in a preclinical animal model, and has shown success against multiple virus targets such as flu, dengue, chikungunya and HIV.
“Many of the top-selling drugs on the market today are monoclonal antibodies; our dMAb products may improve upon this class using our synthetic design and in-vivo production. In fact, we are advancing our first dMAb product—our therapeutic Ebola product funded by DARPA—into human testing next year, opening the path for commercializing these new products to treat cancer and infection,” asserts Kim.
According to Kim, they are preparing for their first clinical trial for the antibodies to treat Zika and Ebola in 2018. They hope this will prove the test case that will push other similarly effective products through the pipeline. The goal is to make this class of blockbuster drugs safer, more affordable and more accessible. He acknowledges that the potential is immense: the currently $50-billion class of drugs is expected to triple over the next two years.