Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, and OncoSec Medical Incorporated (“OncoSec”) (NASDAQ: ONCS), a company developing intratumoral cancer immunotherapies, are pleased to announce they have entered into a research collaboration to combine Avacta’s Affimer protein platform with OncoSec’s gene delivery technology ImmunoPulse®. The research programme will evaluate the benefits of delivering Affimer protein genes directly into tumors using the OncoSec technology with the long-term aim of developing gene delivered Affimer immunotherapies.
Affimer biotherapeutics are a novel engineered alternative to antibodies based on a fully human small protein that can be quickly engineered to bind with high specificity and affinity to a wide range of protein targets. The size and biophysical characteristics of Affimer proteins make them an ideal candidate for gene delivery approaches.
OncoSec has developed a gene delivery technology (see About Gene Delivery) called ImmunoPulse that has clinically demonstrated safe and efficient delivery of DNA encoded proteins directly into a patient’s tumor. OncoSec’s prior Phase 2 OMS I-102 combination study of ImmunoPulse® IL-12 and pembrolizumab successfully demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the platform with a 50% best overall response rate and a 41% complete response rate in 22 patients unlikely to respond to anti-PD-1 therapy. OncoSec was also granted Orphan Drug and FastTrack Designation for pIL-12, otherwise known as tavokinogene telseplasmid or “tavo,” from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The collaboration between the companies aims to show that, by using ImmunoPulse to deliver DNA encoding Avacta’s immuno-modulatory Affimers, including Avacta’s PD-L1 inhibitor (AVA04), into tumor cells and other tissues, a clinically relevant dose can be achieved. The companies plan to then demonstrate efficacy of the Affimers in a relevant in vivo tumor model.
Results from the research collaboration will demonstrate the potential of the combined technologies to create high-value immunotherapy combinations for clinical development and/or licensing.
Dr Alastair Smith, Avacta Group Chief Executive Officer, commented:
“I am very pleased indeed that we have established this research partnership with OncoSec. Avacta is receiving a lot of interest in the Affimer platform for gene delivery and this is the third collaboration in this hugely important area following our partnerships with Moderna Therapeutics and FIT Biotech.
“Gene delivery is a very exciting new area and one in which I believe we can establish Affimer technology as the protein platform of choice because of the technical benefits of using a small, simple protein for this application. This is potentially a very large opportunity for Avacta and a successful outcome of the collaborative work with OncoSec would not only create the potential for the two companies to consider future co-developments but would also support Affimer licensing deals more widely in this rapidly growing field. We look forward to updating the market on our progress.”
“This important milestone in the evolution of our platform further solidifies OncoSec as a leader in gene delivery of intratumoral cancer immunotherapies,” said Daniel J. O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer of OncoSec. “We are delighted to be collaborating with Avacta on the innovative science that is set to transform the lives of patients living with cancer and other devastating diseases. We look forward to the advancement of this collaboration and to sharing the broader clinical application of OncoSec’s ImmunoPulse platform in 2018.”
Each party will bear their own internal costs and will share any third-party costs associated to the partnership, which are estimated to be non-significant.