Vical (www.vical.com) is a long-term, major player in the imunotherapeutics area, with DNA delivery technologies for infectious diseases and cancer where the expressed protein is an immune system stimulant.
Allovectin is a plasmid/lipid complex containing DNA sequences encoding the MHC-I antigen that is injected directly in to tumor lesions in order to stimulate an immune response against the tumor. Allovectin-7, a cancer immunotherapeutic, recently commenced a Phase III trial as a first-line therapy in chemotherapy–naive patients with recurrent stage III or IV metastatic melanoma.
Vical is also partnered with Merck on a HER-2 and CEA antigen in Phase I studies for breast, colorectal, ovarian, or non-small-cell-lung cancer.
Rodman & Renshaw has coverage of the stock with an outperform/speculative rating.
Another company that has active products in clinical development for cancer is privately held Endocyte (www.endocyte.com). It has a receptor-based technology that targets tumor cells using vitamin folate delivery without damaging normal cells. Endocyte has an expanding pipeline in cancer with two clinical programs: EC17 for metastatic and renal cancer and EC145 for folate receptor positive cancers.
Bristol-Myers Squibb(www.bms.com) licensed the folate targeting technology for a future cancer clinical development program.
Two other public companies with cancer vaccines in clinical development are Geron (www.geron.com) with its telomerase platform and Favrille (www.favrille.com) with Favid, a B-cell NHL immunotherapy in Phase III.
A September 2006 report by Cole Werble (Windhover Information), “Vaccines Enter the New Age of Adjuvants”, expects adjuvant-enhanced products will revolutionize the vaccine field, including candidates from some of the above companies working on immunostimulants.
GSK has a major investment in MPL, a detoxified bacterial lipopolysaccharide, combined with QS21 (from Antigenics) in a compound called AS04. This adjuvant is expected to be in the GSK HPV product, Cervarix, expected in a year or so.
Adjuvants can also confer a proprietary position when formulated with vaccines as they offer product differentiation because of their unique chemical structure and immune system activity.