Bavarian Nordic announces PhI data for new cancer vaccine candidate

Bavarian Nordic makes most of its money from its smallpox business, but it is working to expand its reach with moves in the cancer vaccine arena. Toward that end, the Danish company announced on Tuesday the results from a National Cancer Institute-sponsored Phase I study of its new cancer vaccine candidate, MVA-BN Brachyury.

Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin

The vaccine targets brachyury, a tumor-associated antigen that is said to play a role in tumor metastasis, the company said in a statement. The study involved 13 patients with chordoma, a rare, slow-growing tumor that expresses brachyury and 25 patients with other metastatic solid cancers. The data shows that the vaccine induces brachyury-specific T-cell responses in advanced cancer patients, the company said in the statement.

"We now have confirmation that an MVA-BN based cancer immunotherapy can elicit a T-cell response against a specific tumor target," said Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin, in the statement. "Additionally, finding a therapeutic approach to treating brachyury expression, which is not normally found on a tumor cell surface, has to date proven to be quite difficult. The creation of a vaccine-based, immunotherapy approach could be a unique solution to targeting a tumor antigen which has been associated with high rates of metastasis and multidrug resistance."

No serious adverse events were observed in the dose-escalating trial, and immune responses were analyzed in 29 of the 38 patients. The percentage of patients exhibiting a brachyury-specific immune response increased as the dose increased: 66% of patients with one dose, 80% with two doses and 90% with three doses.

Bavarian Nordic was the target of a short-selling campaign this August, with New York-based hedge fund Kerrisdale Capital publicly predicting that Prostvac would fail in its ongoing Phase III trial. Nonetheless, the company, looking to expand the reach of the vaccine, kicked off a Phase II trial of Prostvac in early-stage prostate cancer. And in March, it inked a $1 billion deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) to continue testing in conjunction with BMS therapies.

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