3:21 AM
Aug 24, 2017
 |  BC Innovations  |  Product R&D

MedImmune's neo stimulus package

MedImmune is using its IO arsenal to back up its neoantigen vaccines

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Aug 24, 2017 at 10:13 AM PDT

The MedImmune LLC unit of AstraZeneca plc thinks its pipeline of immune stimulators will give it an edge in the crowded field of neoantigen cancer vaccines. The company's strategy raises the question of whether the personalized vaccines will require cocktails of boosting agents and backing by pharmas with deep immuno-oncology benches to succeed.

Last month, MedImmune launched its neoantigen cancer vaccine collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis. David Berman, MedImmune’s SVP and Head of Oncology Innovative Medicines, told BioCentury the company partnered with WashU because of the university’s pioneering preclinical and clinical work in the neoantigen space.

WashU’s Robert Schreiber, along with other university researchers, helped lay the foundation for the field through preclinical studies of cancer immuno-editing, and showed neoantigens were central to the antitumor immunity induced by checkpoint blockade. Schreiber is a professor of pathology and immunology at WashU and director of its Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs.

The university also has multiple Phase I neoantigen cancer vaccine trials, including a trial with MedImmune to test an undisclosed DNA vaccine plus MedImmune’s Imfinzi durvalumab in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Imfinzi is an anti-PD-L1 mAb marketed for bladder cancer, and in various stages of clinical testing for other cancers.

The pharma brings to the partnership its experience with a broad range of vaccines for infectious diseases, as well as a DNA-based cancer vaccine, MEDI0457, against HPV antigens. MEDI0457 is partnered with Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., and is in Phase I/II testing for cervical cancer and head and neck cancer.

"Companies that have the right molecules, the right cocktails, to finely tune T cell activation -- I think these companies might be better placed for success in the neoantigen field."

David Berman, MedImmune


The two organizations will collaborate on preclinical and clinical research, and will develop a clinical strategy through a joint steering committee. MedImmune will review and approve proposed clinical trials. The company declined to disclose details regarding financials, IP rights and timelines.

Berman said the move to neoantigen vaccines was part of MedImmune's developing focus on personalized immunotherapy. "Unfortunately, most patients don't have shared cancer antigens that are amenable to a common, so-called off-the shelf vaccine. These patients likely have private neoantigens."

The excitement over neoantigen vaccines is rooted in the broad potential of coupling personalized medicine with immuno-oncology.

Neoantigen technology uses a patient’s sequencing data to look for mutations that are present in the tumor but absent from the rest of the body. These cancer-specific neoantigens are perceived as foreign by the immune system, making them more likely to stimulate antitumor T cell activity than traditional cancer vaccine antigens, which are overexpressed by tumors but not unique to them.

Companies in the space face two principal decisions for their scientific strategy: how to pick immunogenic neoantigens from each patient's pile of tumor mutations, and how to deliver them.

But according to Berman the vaccines will require at least one additional immunostimulatory component to go the distance. "I think where the success is really going to come is in using the new tools in our immunotherapy armamentarium as adjuvants."

The idea is that the neoantigens activate tumor-responsive T...

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