Following 18 months of gruelling research, Imugene (ASX: IMU) has finally completed the early development of a new mimotope vaccine, aiming to treat a wide variety of cancers in the human body, and targeting the anti-PD-1 immuno-oncology market worth in excess of US$10 billion per year on a sales revenue basis.
Mimotopes are micro-sized molecules that induce antibody-reactions against specified targets in the human body. Biotech scientists are currently split between using synthetic antibodies and mimotope-induced antibodies given their disparities.
Imugene believes its modernised version of creating antibodies using mimotopes, may have overwhelming advantages over synthetic alternatives including improved safety, longer response times and slashed costs of production.
Imugene’s potentially ground-breaking research was conducted in collaboration with the Medical University of Vienna, under the leadership of Imugene’s chief scientific officer Professor Dr Ursula Wiedermann.
Dr Wiedermann identified business-critical mimotope peptides in 2016 that can be incorporated into Imugene’s proprietary immunotherapeutic vaccine delivery platform and generate antibodies that bind to the PD-1 biomarker.
Once the PD-1 anti-bodies identify and bind to their target, they go to work undermining the protective mechanism within the cancer cells thereby allowing the body’s immune system to destroy only cells that have been designated as cancerous.
Imugene’s novel technique of teaching and inducing the body to generate its own antibodies against PD-1 expressing cells represents a paradigm shift in immuno-oncology and is the first instance of cancer being treated by this methodology anywhere in the world.
Imugene is currently at a relatively early stage of development with clinical testing yet to be completed. Over the coming years, Imugene wants to develop its proprietary ‘monoclonal antibody’ drug, similar to existing variants being sold by BMS (Opdivo) and Merck (Keytruda) that target PD-1, the immune system’s master-key to finding and eliminating cancerous cells.
In 2017, the two drugs generated US$5 billion and US$4 billion respectively while posting double-digit annual growth since being launched.
To protect its intellectual property, Imugene has filed for patents that will “provide protection across a broad landscape of possible immunotherapies, including their combination with cancer vaccines such as HER-Vaxx,” according to an Imugene market update.
Imugene now plans to commence a preclinical development program which will test the vaccine for both efficacy and safety. This program will be “intensive yet systematic to yield a clinical-ready vaccine candidate” that can be entered into human trials in the foreseeable future.
Issuing a joint statement in parallel with today’s news, Imugene CEO Leslie Chong and Dr Ursula Wiedermann both said that, “Development of this new immunotherapy has positioned Imugene to be a new and competitive player in the immuno-oncology revolution in cancer therapy. This expands our pipeline and transforms Imugene into a multi-asset biopharmaceutical company.”