Ziopharm Oncology and MD Anderson Cancer Center Announce New R&D Agreement to Expand TCR-T Program

Ziopharm Oncology, Inc., and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center today announced a new research and development agreement relating to Ziopharm’s Sleeping Beauty immunotherapy program to use non-viral gene transfer to stably express and clinically evaluate neoantigen-specific T-cell receptors (TCRs) in T cells (referred to as TCR-T).

“We are delighted to deepen our relationship with MD Anderson, which provides treatment to a large and diverse population of cancer patients with solid tumors,” said Laurence Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Ziopharm. “This new agreement is a launch point to expand our TCR library and execute two new clinical trials; a trial for utilizing TCRs from the library targeting hotspot mutations in KRAS, TP53 and EGFR, and a second trial for personalized TCRs targeting patient-specific neoantigens.”

“Cell-based immunotherapies have emerged as a powerful new option for treating patients with hematological cancers, but we have not yet had the same success for patients with solid tumors,” said Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., senior vice president for Research Administration and Industry Ventures at MD Anderson. “We are pleased to be working with Ziopharm to advance a new generation of cell therapies, and we are hopeful they can one day be effective in treating a broader group of our patients.”

Under the terms of the new agreement, Ziopharm commits to fund an additional $20 million for this expanded work in the TCR-T program through 2023, as well as certain milestone payments for clinical development or regulatory approval in the U.S., European Union, Japan and the rest of the world. The funding for this new agreement was included within the budget forecast provided by Ziopharm in its second quarter 2019 financial results news release and webcast commentary.

MD Anderson will receive low, single-digit royalties on net sales in the U.S. and international markets, as well as warrants for Ziopharm common stock which vest upon achievement of clinical milestones. According to institutional guidelines, MD Anderson has implemented an Institutional Conflict of Interest Management and Monitoring Plan to manage this research.

This new agreement expands the relationship between Ziopharm and MD Anderson, established under a 2015 research agreement related to CD19-specific CAR-T. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared an IND application for a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate CD19-specific CAR-T, manufactured and infused within two days of gene transfer using Ziopharm’s rapid personalized manufacture (RPM), as an investigational treatment for patients with relapsed CD19+ leukemias and lymphomas. Ziopharm has approximately $20 million of pre-funded R&D at MD Anderson under the prior agreement, which may now be used under the new agreement, for both the CAR-T or TCR-T initiatives.

In addition to the new research and development agreement, Ziopharm has entered a lease agreement with MD Anderson through which the company accesses additional laboratory and office space within the institution’s campus. This new facility will serve as home for Ziopharm’s expanded Houston office, under the direction of Eleanor de Groot, Ph.D., EVP, GM Cell Therapy and Drew Deniger, Ph.D., head of Ziopharm’s TCR-T cell therapy program.