The nonprofit Cancer Research Institute (CRI), Ludwig Cancer Research and CureVac, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that has developed a new class of therapies and vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), will collaborate to enable clinical testing of novel cancer immunotherapy treatment options.
Amplifying the immune system's ability to recognize, attack and destroy cancer is a therapeutic strategy that recent studies have demonstrated to be a potent and effective approach to treatment of some cancers. Product approvals and clinical data for various checkpoint inhibitors, which block proteins responsible for immune system inhibition, support the potential of combining CureVac's RNActive vaccines with this new class of treatment to significantly improve cancer patient survival.
"The collaboration with CureVac is the fourth in a series of partnerships CRI and Ludwig have struck with biotech and pharmaceutical companies in order to bring next-generation combination immunotherapies into clinical studies sooner than would otherwise happen," said Adam Kolom, managing director of CRI's nonprofit venture fund, which makes investments to support the costs of innovative immunotherapy clinical trials. "Each of our partnerships increases investigator access to one or more high-promise immune reagents, and brings new and potentially more effective combination treatments to patients."
Ludwig and CRI will conduct up to five clinical studies of cancer immunotherapy combinations through their jointly coordinated CVC Trials Network using CureVac's investigational clinical stage drug, CV9202, combined with other priority agents available to CRI and Ludwig from their internal portfolios or accessed through additional industry partnerships. CV9202 contains NSCLC-associated antigens and is the optimized successor of CV9201, which has successfully completed a phase I/IIa clinical trial demonstrating its safety and immunogenicity. Additional investigational clinical stage drugs from CureVac's product pipeline can be added.
"Combining immunotherapy approaches holds great potential for the treatment of cancer," said Jonathan Skipper Ph.D., executive director of technology development at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. "CureVac's immunotherapy platform, which contains several Ludwig antigens, has shown promising results in early stage clinical trials. Our collaboration will enable us to combine this novel technology with different immunotherapeutic approaches to attack a patient's cancer on multiple fronts and therefore decrease the chances of immune escape," said Skipper.
"There has been a great amount of progress made in cancer immunotherapy recently, and we believe that checkpoint inhibitors could work even more efficiently with fewer side effects when combined with targeted anti-tumor guidance through an efficient vaccination approach such as RNActive," said Ingmar Hoerr, Ph.D., chief executive officer at CureVac. "The collaboration will provide us with insights about combination immunotherapies such as combinations with checkpoint inhibitors."
Financial terms have not been disclosed.