Mayo Clinic licenses vaccine tech to TapImmune for all HER2/neu cancers

breast cancer
Breast cancer cells--Courtesy of National Cancer Institute

TapImmune, which focuses on infectious diseases and immuno-oncology, has chosen a tricky field, as cancer vaccines have seen limited success. But the biotech pushes on, licensing Mayo Clinic's HER2/neu vaccine technology to develop vaccines for any cancer where the HER2/neu gene is overexpressed.

Mayo Clinic initially licensed the technology to Jacksonville, FL’s TapImmune in 2012, for the development of a vaccine to treat HER2/neu breast cancer. That candidate has undergone Phase I trials, reporting positive safety and immune response data in June 2015. The company plans to bring it into Phase II trials at the beginning of 2017, it said in a statement Tuesday. While CEO Glynn Wilson said the candidate could be developed as a standalone vaccine or as part of a combination approach, he did not disclose any other cancers the company plans to target using Mayo Clinic’s platform.

The duo is also collaborating on a folate receptor alpha vaccine for patients with triple-negative breast cancer. These patients have no treatment options other than chemotherapy and surgery, but Wilson thinks TapImmune’s vaccine could work in 90% of women, compared to current vaccines that work in about 20% of women. TapImmune does not currently have any products on the market.

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TapImmune is working with AstraZeneca ($AZN) on a combination therapy for ovarian cancer, comprising the former’s anti-folate receptor vaccine and the latter’s anti-PD-L1 antibody, durvalumab. The treatment will enter Phase II trials this year.  Several high-profile companies, including GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck KGaA, have developed cancer vaccines only to run into late-stage failures. But several companies hope combining their vaccines with checkpoint inhibitors like PD-L1 drugs will help realize their potential.

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