Totaling close to 40 alliances and partnerships so far, MD Anderson recently announced three new strategic collaborations that will advance the development of investigational therapies for four cancers, help put natural killer cells to work, and bolster work on an autophagy drug.
Novel therapeutics based on inhibiting autophagy
Vescor LLC, a new company focused on discovery and development of autophagy targeted therapeutics for cancer treatment, has been formed by MD Anderson, Deerfield Management and two leading autophagy experts — Eileen White, Ph.D., deputy director and associate director for Basic Science at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Alec Kimmelman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Radiation Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and a member of the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone.
Vescor, advised by its scientific founders, White and Kimmelman, whose research has shown inhibition of autophagy can dramatically impact tumor growth in pre-clinical models, will develop small-molecule inhibitors of a number of protein targets at critical nodes of the autophagy cascade, perform investigational new drug (IND) enabling studies, and move these into clinical development. MD Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science, in combination with Deerfield, will provide drug discovery and development expertise, together with translational research focused toward advancing autophagy therapeutics into trials in melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancers.
Autophagy is a cellular process that plays an important role during the development and maintenance of tumors. It allows tumors to scavenge nutrients to sustain growth and survive. Autophagy also has been demonstrated as critical to therapeutic resistance, and is upregulated during cancer treatment in response to chemotherapy and radiation.
Read more about Vescor in the MD Anderson Newsroom.
Accelerating the development of investigational oncology/immuno-oncology compounds
MD Anderson and EMD Serono, the healthcare business arm of Merck KGaA, have announced a 3-year strategic collaboration to more quickly advance the development of investigational cancer therapies in four cancers — breast, colorectal, glioblastoma and leukemia.
EMD Serono will be the first company to gain access to the Adaptive Patient-Oriented Longitudinal Learning and Optimization Platform (APOLLO) — MD Anderson’s research platform that standardizes the long-term collection of patients’ medical history and data gathered from tissue samples in order to better understand the biology of cancer and accelerate research-driven patient care. The collaboration will encompass both biomarker-focused preclinical research and clinical trials in specific tumor types in order to identify biomarkers of response and resistance and develop a better understanding of the disease’s biology.
The collaboration will enhance the value of EMD Serono’s future oncology/immuno-oncology pipeline with the intent to establish multiple registrational studies in novel indications in the next two to three years. Data from APOLLO will be used to match a number of investigational compounds to select tumor types in order to develop and design biomarker-driven preclinical and clinical studies to evaluate the potential therapeutic effect of the compounds — alone or in combination.
Read more about the collaboration in the Newsroom.
Agreement brings together natural killer cell and antibody-based technologies
MD Anderson and Affimed have launched an exclusive strategic clinical development and commercialization collaboration to evaluate Affimed’s TandAb technology in combination with MD Anderson’s natural killer cell (NK) product.
Affimed is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing highly targeted cancer immunotherapies.
NK-cells are white blood cells that monitor the body for infected and cancerous cells. The technology to grow NK-cells from umbilical cord blood was developed at MD Anderson.
This collaboration will leverage MD Anderson’s expertise in NK-cells and translational medicine and Affimed’s capabilities to develop tumor-targeting bispecific TandAb immune cell engagers.
Collaborative studies will research, develop, and eventually commercialize novel oncology therapeutics resulting from this combination of products. MD Anderson will be responsible for conducting preclinical research activities aimed at investigating its NK-cells in combination with Affimed’s lead NK-cell engager, the CD30- and CD16A-targeting TandAb AFM13. A planned Phase 1 clinical trial will follow.
For more about MD Anderson’s work with Affimed here.