AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune has licensed a toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist from 3M ($MMM), in the hopes that intratumoral injection of the candidate will allow the compound to be retained in cancerous tumors, which would improve its tolerability and provide immune system activation.
The FDA has accepted the candidate's Investigational New Drug application, enabling a Phase I study of the TLR to investigate its safety profile as a treatment for patients with solid tumors, the companies said in a release.
TLRs recognize the molecules of pathogens and activate the innate immune system's antigen-presenting cells, including dendritic cells. The TLR of interest to MedImmune activates TLRs 7 and 8, thereby encouraging a strong adaptive immune response to cancer. The release says the candidate can "additionally convert immune suppressive cells in the tumor to those with anti-tumor properties, allowing the generation of an effective anti-tumor response."
The candidate will be the first TLR7 and -8 agonist to be delivered directly into a tumor in a clinical setting, the companies said.
"We're pleased to collaborate with 3M Drug Delivery Systems to explore TLR agonists as monotherapy and in combination with our internal immuno-oncology portfolio," Dr. Yong-Jun Liu, SVP of R&D and head of research at MedImmune, said in the release. "By targeting tumor antigen presentation, MEDI9197 adds a unique mechanism of immune activation to our growing portfolio and supports our strategy of maximizing anti-tumor immunity through scientifically rational combinations."
The collaboration calls for MedImmune to make an upfront payment to 3M, as well as development-related milestone payments. The biotech will also provide 3M with research funding in return for exclusive rights to conduct research on molecules that arise from the alliance.
Meanwhile, 3M will continue developing TLRs for oncology and other therapeutic areas. It retains the rights to the TLR of interest in topical applications and vaccine admixtures, according to the release.
3M earned FDA approval for the now-generic TLR7 agonist imiquimod in 1997. The topical cream is used to fight genital warts and a type of skin cancer known as superficial basal cell carcinoma.
Three other 3M TLRs are available for outlicensing, as well as transdermal patches, according to the 3M Drug Delivery Systems website. The unit also makes inhalers, microneedles and other drug delivery devices.
MedImmune said the licensing agreement fits its strategy of targeting various immune system mechanisms to fight cancer, including antigen presentation, the innate immune system and the tumor microenvironment.
In another recently announced partnership, the biotech hopes to generate monospecific and bispecific antibody-drug conjugates targeting various cancers in collaboration with Japan's Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma.
- read the release