GlaxoSmithKline plc (LON: GSK) and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany have announced that they have entered into a global strategic alliance to jointly develop and commercialise M7824 (bintrafusp alfa). M7824 is an investigational bifunctional fusion protein immunotherapy that is currently in clinical development, including potential registration studies, for multiple difficult-to-treat cancers. This includes a Phase II trial to investigate M7824 compared with pembrolizumab as a first-line treatment in patients with PD-L1 expressing advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Avacta plc CEO Alastair Smith commented,
“After Merck’s promising phase 1 data last summer for this TGF-beta/PDL1 bispecific blocker, GSK clearly wants a piece of the action. Bispecifics built on the PD1/PDL1 backbone are going to be one of the mainstays of cancer immunotherapies in the coming years and something that Avacta is building its pipeline around.”
M7824 is designed to simultaneously target two immuno-suppressive pathways, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) trap and an anti-programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1), that are commonly used by cancer cells to evade the immune system. Bifunctional antibodies aim to increase efficacy above and beyond that achieved with individual therapies or combinations of individual therapies.1 M7824 has the potential to offer new ways to fight difficult-to-treat cancers beyond the established PD-1/PD-L1 class. In addition to use as a single agent, M7824 is also being considered for use in combination with other assets from the pipelines of both companies.
Avacta Group plc (LON: AVCT) principal focus is on its proprietary Affimer® technology which is a novel engineered alternative to antibodies that has wide application in Life Sciences for diagnostics, therapeutics and general research and development.
Antibodies dominate markets worth in excess of $100bn despite their shortcomings. Affimer® technology has been designed to address many of these negative performance issues, principally; the time taken to generate new antibodies, the reliance on an animal’s immune response, poor specificity in many cases, and batch to batch variability. Affimer® technology is based on a small protein that can be quickly generated to bind with high specificity and affinity to a wide range of protein targets.
Avacta has a pre-clinical biotech development programme with an in-house focus on immuno-oncology as well as partnered development programmes. Avacta is commercialising non-therapeutic Affimer® reagents through licensing to developers of life sciences research tools and diagnostics.