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Antibodies Licensed for Multi-Target Immunotherapies

Computational biology illustration

(Lawrence Livermore National Lab)

2 April 2018. MedImmune, the biologics subsidiary of drug maker AstraZeneca, is licensing antibodies from a biotechnology company for treatments that simultaneously address two or more cancer targets. The deal could bring drug discovery enterprise Compugen Ltd. in Holon, Israel as much as $210 million if all aspects of the agreement are fulfilled.

Compugen uses computational biology to identify new drug targets, based largely on genome and protein analysis, combined with experimental and disease data analysis. Its genome and protein analyses provide details down to specific genes, messenger RNA codes, and proteins. Compugen also says its protein analysis algorithms can identify binding segments on a protein of interest or interacting segments within a protein, which include discovery of segments blocking interactions between or within proteins, which have implications for therapeutic peptides.

In addition, the company says it has large databases of patient disease and clinical data to associate drug targets to outcomes. The database originally focused on immune system checkpoints, a leading strategy for cancer immunotherapies. More recently, that database added targets derived from bone marrow-related cells in supporting environments for tumors. Still another Compugen database stores gene expression data related to 1,400 tissue types, segmented by normal, diseased, and drug-treated patients.

Compugen says it takes the discovery process further to provide better targeting for cancer immunotherapies, for which a large percentage of solid tumor patients do not respond. The company says its algorithms identified new sets of immune checkpoints in a separate family of molecules, by analyzing variations at the genome and protein levels in greater detail than before. One of those immunotherapies is Compugen’s lead product candidate, code-named CGEN-15029/PVRIG, approaching clinical trials. Another immunotherapy candidate is already licensed by drug maker Bayer, as reported by Science & Enterprise in 2013.

Under the new agreement, MedImmune receives an exclusive license to Compugen’s antibodies for development into bi-specific and multi-specific therapies. Antibodies normally bind to a single target proteins with two separate links, but, according to Compugen, can be genetically engineered for each link to bind to separate targets. Further engineering makes possible binding to three or more protein targets. This multi-targeting enables multiple mechanisms of action in a single antibody.

The deal gives MedImmune sole responsibility for further research, development, and commercialization for those treatments. In return, Compugen receives an initial payment of $10 million and is eligible for further development, regulatory, and commercial milestones of $200 million on MedImmune’s first product, as well as royalties on sales. If MedImmune creates more products, Compugen will be eligible for further, but unspecified, milestone payments and royalties.

The deal enables Compugen to retain all rights to its single-target therapies, as well as in combination with other treatments. The company also discovers treatments for autoimmune disorders, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, with one therapy candidate in preclinical development.

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