Key Discovery in Understanding Successes and Failures of Immunotherapy

A key discovery has advanced the understanding of why some patients respond to ipilimumab, an immunotherapy drug, while others do not. The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2014;371[23]:2189-2199), indicated that patients who respond to ipilimumab have cancer cells that carry a high number of gene mutations. Some of these mutations make tumors more visible to the immune system, and therefore easier to fight.

"We are learning that there are few treatments that don't have some footprint in the cancer genome," said lead researcher Timothy Chan, MD, PhD, vice chair of Radiation Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York. "For the first time, it might be feasible to develop a reliable diagnostic test to help guide treatment decisions by predicting who will respond."
read more.-->

Hodgkin Lymphoma Responds to Immunotherapy

Patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma whose cancer had failed to respond to other treatments showed improvement in studies that tested the effect of two PD-1 inhibitors - immunotherapy drugs that help the immune system recognize and attack cancer. The results of the two phase 1 trials are being presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Francisco, CA.
read more.-->

New Anti-Malaria Compound Destroys Parasite Quickly

One of the challenges in the fight against malaria - a disease that threatens half the world's population and kills a child in Africa every minute - is that it rapidly becomes resistant to new drugs. To sustain their effectiveness, new drugs need to act fast and eliminate the parasite before it has a chance to develop resistance. Now, a new study offers such a compound - in mice it removed all traces of malaria parasite within 48 hours.
read more.-->

Pfizer Buys into Gene Therapy’s Renaissance and Bets on Spark Therapeutics

Pfizer is the latest pharma heavyweight to get behind the promise of gene therapy, as the New York drugmaker has laid out plans to set up a dedicated R&D operation and signed a deal with startup Spark Therapeutics to kick-start the effort.

The company has recruited Michael Linden, a professor at King's College London, to serve a two-year stint setting up a gene therapy research unit within Pfizer's existing rare disease segment. Linden, with more than 20 years of experience in gene therapy, will share his expertise in the field and help Pfizer's researchers get up to speed quickly, the company said, establishing a platform from which the drugmaker can build a pipeline of new treatments.
read more.-->

Gene Linked to Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancers

After mining the genetic records of thousands of breast cancer patients, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have identified a gene whose presence may explain why some breast cancers are resistant to tamoxifen, a widely used hormone treatment generally used after surgery, radiation and other chemotherapy. The gene, called MACROD2, might also be useful in screening for some aggressive forms of breast cancers, and, someday, offering a new target for therapy, says Ben Ho Park, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of oncology in the Kimmel Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Program and a member of the research team.
read more.-->

Apellis Pharmaceuticals Raises $33M to Fund its Complement Immunotherapy Programs

Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leading biotechnology company applying immunotherapy to autoimmune disease, today announced that it has completed a $33M private placement of its Series C Preferred Stock. The financing was led by Morningside Ventures and AJU IB Investment Co., Ltd. with Epidarex Ventures participating with follow-on funding. The proceeds will be used to fund three new complement immunotherapy programs entering clinical proof-of-concept stage.
read more.-->

Promising Hybrid Delivery System for DNA Vaccines Developed

Scientists at the University of Buffalo report the development of a novel hybrid system that was designed to deliver vaccines that contain genetically engineered DNA to fight HIV, cancer, influenza, and other disorders. The team described its research (“Hybrid biosynthetic gene therapy vector development and dual engineering capacity”) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The technology that we're developing could help take immunization to the next level," said Blaine A. Pfeifer, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering in the school of engineering and applied sciences. "By improving the delivery of DNA vaccines, we can potentially harness the human immune system in new ways to fight everything from the flu and herpes to HIV and cancer."
read more.-->

Personalized Vaccines, Next Frontier in Cancer Treatment, to Begin Clinical Trial

In one of the first trials of personalized vaccines for cancer, the European-funded Glioma Actively Personalized Vaccine Consortium (GAPVAC) is about to launch a Phase 1 clinical trial for patients with glioblastoma, the most aggressive of brain cancers. The goal of nearly all cancer treatments is honing in on antigens, the target structures on tumors, in order to kill only the cancer cells. One of the best strategies in developing precision treatments like these personalized vaccines, scientists believe, is to tailor the drug to the specific tumor antigens of the individual.
read more.-->

Cell Medica Hauls in $78 Million to get its Cancer Immunotherapy Through Phase II

London's Cell Medica has raised a £50 million ($78 million) B round to support its work on treatments that train the body's immune system to fight cancer and infectious disease, rolling through midstage trials with an oncology candidate. U.K. investing stalwart Imperial Innovations led the round, joined by Invesco Perpetual and Woodford Investment Management. Cell Medica plans to pour the new funds into its pipeline, fueling R&D alongside partners including the Wellcome Trust and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CRIT).
read more.-->

Ichor Medical Systems Awarded DARPA Contract for Development of TriGrid Platform for Passive Immunization

SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ichor Medical Systems (Ichor) of San Diego announced today that they have received a contract through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and supported by the U.S. Army Research Office for up to $20.2 million of funding over five years, including a base period award of $8.6M and follow-on option years. The program will fund the development and clinical assessment of Ichor’s TriGrid™ electroporation system as a DNA-based antibody delivery platform to produce protective antibodies for passive immunoprophylaxis.

The award is part of a DARPA program called ADEPT: PROTECT (Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics: Prophylactic Options to Environmental and Contagious Threats) aimed at developing new platform technologies that could be safely and rapidly deployed to the U.S. population and military personnel to provide immediate protection in the event of an infectious outbreak or biological weapons attack. While active immunization with traditional vaccines is effective at stimulating the immune system to generate protective antibodies, such responses are not immediate and may require multiple doses of the vaccine. In contrast, the TriGrid technology could be used to bypass the immune system to directly deliver DNA sequences encoding protective antibodies into an infected or exposed individual. This approach would result in rapid production of antibodies by the individual providing immediate protection against the pathogen.
read more.-->