MD Anderson and Panacea launch Manaolana Oncology to develop antibody-based therapies for cancer

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Panacea Venture today announced the launch of Manaolana Oncology Inc., a new company created to develop and advance antibody-based therapies against novel cancer antigens.

Manaolana Oncology seeks to build upon the innovative antibody production capabilities and intellectual property of MD Anderson to research and develop novel monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and other antibody-based therapies for a variety of cancer types, with the goal of advancing promising therapies into clinical studies at MD Anderson.

The company will be headquartered in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and will be led by an executive team with more than 100 years of combined experience in product development and strategic partnering. Panacea will fund start-up expenses for Manaolana Oncology and will support the recruitment of additional experienced executives to shape the company.

“By developing therapies targeting new tumor antigens, Manaolana Oncology aims to address a critical need for patients with cancer. Manaolana is the Hawaiian word for hope, and it is our intent to offer patients renewed hope against this disease,” said Winson Tang, M.D., co-founder of Manaolana Oncology. “Manaolana Oncology brings together MD Anderson’s expert scientists and clinicians with Panacea’s experienced biotechnology team to create a focused organization working to develop a novel portfolio of monoclonal antibodies.”

Monoclonal antibody therapies have emerged as important treatment options for many types of cancer. They are designed to recognize and bind to specific targets, or antigens, on cancer cells in order to manipulate certain signaling pathways or recruit immune cells to the tumor.

The laboratory of Samir Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention at MD Anderson, has conducted an extensive characterization of the cancer surfaceome, resulting in a comprehensive catalogue of proteins found specifically on the surface of cancer cells across tumor types.

“By combing through petabytes of proteomic data, our team has uncovered many cancer-restricted antigens that may offer prime targets for monoclonal antibody therapies,” Hanash said. “We look forward to collaborating with Manaolana Oncology to develop novel antibody-based therapeutics that offer patients impactful new treatment options.”

Kevin McBride, Ph.D., associate professor of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis at MD Anderson, has pioneered a high-throughput platform to clone and produce mAbs from isolated B cells, enabling  the development of highly specific antibodies against a particular cell surface target to create novel therapeutic mAbs.

“This is an important evolution because current approaches to creating high-quality monoclonal antibodies require lengthy and intensive production protocols, which can be costly and are not always successful,” McBride said. “We look forward to working with Manaolana Oncology to build on these techniques and rapidly bring forward innovative therapies for clinical evaluation.”

Manaolana Oncology intends to optimize the techniques developed at MD Anderson in order to improve the speed and efficiency in of producing antibodies against promising candidate antigens.


MD Anderson has an institutional conflict of interest (COI) with Panacea and Manaolana Oncology due to MD Anderson’s ownership interest in Manaolana and the future research to be conducted at MD Anderson. These relationships will be managed according to an MD Anderson Institutional COI Management and Monitoring Plan.