Intrexon Corporation and its oncology partner Ziopharm Oncology have entered an immunotherapy deal with MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The companies announced that they have entered into a broad exclusive licensing agreement with the cancer center, including an exclusive sublicensing agreement through MD Anderson for intellectually property developed at the University of Minnesota for the development of non-viral adoptive cellular cancer immunotherapies.
Under the deal, Intrexon and Ziopharm will pay MD Anderson $100 million ($50 million each) for a CAR-T technology, developed through a process in which T cells are removed from a patient’s blood and then equipped with targeting mechanisms called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which bind to proteins expressed by cancer cells. The cells are then reinjected into the patient to attack malignancies. Additionally, the companies committed to $15 to $20 million annually over three years for MD Anderson to research and develop the technologies.
“Genetically engineering our patients’ immune-system T cells to efficiently attack and destroy cancer cells represents one of the most exciting approaches with curative potential in oncology today,” said MD Anderson President Ron DePinho, MD. “We believe coupling MD Anderson’s unique CAR T cell approach with powerful technologies of Ziopharm and Intrexon will allow us to build T cells that hit cancer harder, with greater precision, under tighter control and with potentially fewer side effects for patients. This agreement ranks as one of MD Anderson’s most substantial collaborations and will provide significant resources to fuel its mission of Making Cancer History®.”
MD Anderson’s approach, known as Sleeping Beauty, uses a non-viral DNA plasmid-based gene transfer system. The collaboration will implement next-generation non-viral adoptive cellular therapies based on designer cytokines and CARs under control of Ziopharm’s RheoSwitch technology targeting both hematologic and solid tumor malignancies. The companies will leverage the platforms to accelerate a promising synthetic immunology pipeline, with up to five CARs expected to enter the clinic this year and off the shelf programs initiating in 2016.
Previous CAR-T cell approaches have shown impressive results. The announcement sent Ziopharm’s shares up more than 50 percent and Intrexon’s about 14 percent.
“The promise of controlled, cell-based immuno-oncology therapy is that we can achieve dramatic, long duration anti-cancer results while keeping patients out of intensive care during treatment. As importantly, we can reproduce these results in a globally scalable and economically viable way,” said Jonathan Lewis, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Ziopharm Oncology. “The MD Anderson Cancer Center has long been a leader in cancer therapy, in terms of innovation, patient care, and the highest quality research. As part of our commitment to this important partnership and the acceleration of translational medicine, Ziopharm will build a base of operations in Houston to join and collaborate with the academic and medical community around this world-class institution.”
Source: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center