Aduro, UC Berkeley team up in $7.5M immunotherapy and vaccine initiative

Berkeley, California
Berkeley, CA(Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5)

Months after signing a 12-year lease on a new R&D hub in Berkeley, CA, Aduro Biotech is diving right in with a $7.5 million collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley. The three-year Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI) will target cancers and other diseases, the duo announced in a statement on Monday.

The partnership will marry Aduro's ($ADRO) cancer immunotherapy experience with UC Berkeley's sizable research capabilities in a bid to identify and advance new treatments for cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disease.

David Raulet, a professor and co-chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and IVRI director--Courtesy of UC Berkeley

"We're increasingly finding that immune stimulants associated with disease-causing microbes work as cancer therapies, and conversely, that immunotherapies for cancer may have application in fighting infectious disease," said IVRI Director David Raulet in a statement.

The program's scope could include investigating cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs) and the immune system's natural killer cells, the university said in the statement.

CDNs activate a protein found in cells and ultimately cause it to launch an immune response to kill pathogens and destroy cancer cells. While Aduro has developed a CDN that caused tumors to shrink in preclinical trials, Sarah Stanley, an IVRI-affiliated researcher, found that CDNs can also help improve currently available vaccines against tuberculosis. As for natural killer cells, they become desensitized in tumors and cease to eliminate cancer cells. IVRI research would focus on how to "wake them up" and get them to resume killing cancer cells.

Aduro has partnered with the university before, using the latter's tech to engineer Listeria bacteria to stimulate the immune system in vaccines against pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma. But just months after pulling off a $119 million IPO, Aduro quietly disclosed that a patient in a Phase II trial had developed a serious infection linked to its pancreatic cancer vaccine. Listeriosis can be deadly for people with compromised immune function, including cancer patients. If more infections crop up in future, the vaccine could be in trouble.

But for now, the new program will focus on identifying new candidates to diversify Aduro's pipeline and if all goes well, there is an option to extend the collaboration another three years.

"It's exciting to think that drugs tested first in diseases like cancer might have an impact on neglected diseases in the developing world, and that it can work in the other direction too," Raulet said.

- here's Aduro's release
- and here's a statement from UC Berkeley