GSK and MD Anderson enter into cancer immune therapy deal potentially worth more than $335 million
12-10-2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author

SHARING OPTIONS:

HOUSTON—The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have signed a research collaboration and license agreement to develop new therapeutic antibodies that promote an immune system attack against cancer.  Specifically, the deal terms stipulate that MD Anderson grants GSK exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the antibodies, which activate OX40 on the surface of T cells. MD Anderson, through its new Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS), will collaborate with GSK to conduct preclinical research on the antibodies.
 
The overall value of the deal to MD Anderson over the life of the agreement could ultimately exceed $335 million. Under the terms of the agreement, MD Anderson will receive an upfront license payment and funding for IACS research collaboration activities, as well as payments for reaching various development, regulatory and commercial milestones. In addition, MD Anderson will also qualify for royalties on commercial sales of products developed under the collaboration, should the partners make it to market with any of the antibodies.
 
The antibodies were discovered by Dr. Yong-Jun Liu, and colleagues when he was professor and chair of MD Anderson's Department of Immunology.   
 
"This agreement is not only a tribute to the ability of MD Anderson scientists to discover new targets and potential therapies against those targets for cancer patients, it's also a testament to the vision shared by GSK and MD Anderson that successful clinical development of oncology drugs requires seamless integration of drug development expertise and deep biological knowledge," said Dr. Giulio Draetta, the director of IACS, in the news release about the agreement. "The IACS was formed to enable precisely such integration to expedite the accurate translation of great science into drugs. T he IACS is a drug development engine with industry-seasoned scientists embedded in a comprehensive cancer center, and as such is ideally suited for this type of collaboration."  
 
The IACS also is a key part of MD Anderson's ambitious Moon Shots Program, which is focusing on eight cancers to start with, looking to focus "resources and diver to significantly reduce mortality in the short term and promote cures long term." Unleashing a patient's own immune system on an invading cancer is a pivotal part of this strategy, with MD Anderson noting that malignant cells are an abnormality that usually attracts a response from the body's immune system, "yet cancer often survives by evading or thwarting anti-tumor immunity. Consistently unleashing the power of the immune system against cancer would be a major step forward for cancer patients."
 
While T cells are lymphocytes, and thus part of the immune system, "T cell recognition of a tumor antigen is not enough to activate the T cells against cancer cells; they need a secondary signal to tell them 'that antigen you have is a bad thing, you have to attack,' said Liu, who is now chief scientific officer and vice president of the Baylor Research Institute of the Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.  
 
OX40 is one of the secondary or co-stimulatory receptor proteins necessary in this process. Liu and colleagues found that when it is activated, it enhances immune attack and blocks suppressors of immune response.  
 
"It's gratifying to see MD Anderson and GSK take this important step towards translating a basic science discovery into a potential new therapy that can proceed to clinical trial," Liu said.  

SOURCE: MD Anderson news release
 
Code: E12071201

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