Innate Pharma has acquired full development and commercialization rights to the anti-NKG2A antibody, a first-in-class immune checkpoint inhibitor ready for phase II development in oncology from global healthcare company Novo Nordisk.
Novo Nordisk conducted a large phase I safety trial with anti-NKG2A in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, demonstrating a good safety profile for both iv and sc routes at single and multiple administrations. Novo Nordisk has decided to advance other compounds for further development in inflammation, including anti-NKG2D, currently in phase II development and generated within the collaboration between Innate Pharma and Novo Nordisk.
Novo Nordisk will receive $2.7 million in cash and 600,000 shares for licensing anti-NKG2A to Innate and be eligible to a total of $27.3 million in potential registration milestones and single-digit tiered royalties on future sales.
Herve Brailly, CEO of Innate Pharma, said, "This is a superb opportunity for Innate Pharma. In addition to lirilumab partnered to Bristol-Myers Squibb and currently in phase II, we now have a proprietary phase II ready, first-in-class, immuno-modulating antibody with favorable phase I safety data and the promise of broad development potential. Our initial clinical development plan is in oncology, and we expect to start the clinical program before the end of this year.”
Per Falk, senior vice president Biopharmaceutical Research, Novo Nordisk, said, "The new field of innate immunity pharmacology opened by Innate Pharma has proven highly productive, as exemplified by anti-KIR and anti-NKG2D now in phase II clinical trials. In view of recent successes with this type of drug candidates in cancer patients, we believe that anti-NKG2A has its greatest potential in oncology and that Innate Pharma is in the best position to pursue its development."
IPH2201 (anti-NKG2A) is a first-in-class humanized IgG4 antibody. NKG2A is a checkpoint receptor that inhibits anti-cancer functions of cytotoxic NK and T lymphocytes. NKG2A recognizes HLA-E ligands, and by expressing HLA-E cancer cells can protect themselves from killing by CD94/NKG2A-positive NK-, NKT-, and T-cells (α/β and γ/δ). HLA-E frequently is up-regulated on cancer cells and this occurs in patients with different types of solid tumors or haematological malignancies. In some types of cancers, high-levels of HLA-E appear to confer poorer prognosis. IPH2201 blocks the inhibitory function of CD94/NKG2A, thereby unleashing NK and T cells to kill cancer cells, despite expression of HLA-E. IPH2201 enhances NK and T cell killing of a variety of cancer cell types. Hence, IPH2201 may potentially re-establish a broad anti-tumor response mediated by NK and T cells. Anti-NKG2A mAb also may enhance the cytotoxic potential of other therapeutic antibodies. In an ongoing single- and multiple-dose phase I dose-escalation safety trial in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, IPH2201 appears to have a safe and well-tolerated profile at all doses tested.