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April 23, 2015

MedImmune, Juno Team Up to Study Cancer Immunotherapy Combo

  • MedImmune and Juno Therapeutics will partner to conduct clinical trials for a combination of their cancer immunotherapies as a potential treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

    The trials would assess the combination of MedImmune’s Phase III programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) immune checkpoint inhibitor MEDI4736 and one of Juno’s CD19-directed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell candidates.

    MedImmune—AstraZeneca’s global biologics R&D arm—and Juno will jointly co-fund an initial Phase Ib study, expected to begin later this year under terms of their nonexclusive collaboration.

    The companies did not disclose which of Juno’s investigational treatments would be studied. According to its website, and as noted last week in GEN’s List of Sweet 16 Top Cancer Immunotherapy Developers, Juno has disclosed three CD19-directed CAR T cell therapies in clinical stages—two in Phase I/II trials (JCAR014 [CD19] and JCAR017 [CD19]), the other in a pair of Phase I studies (JCAR015 [CD19]).

    Juno’s CAR T cell technology inserts a gene for a particular CAR into the T cell, enabling it to recognize cancer cells based on the expression of a specific protein located on the cell surface. When the engineered T cell engages the target protein on the cancer cell, it initiates a cell-killing response against the cancer cell.

    “We believe combination strategies such as this will help us better understand the full potential of our engineered T-cell platform in both hematological and solid tumor settings,” Mark W. Frohlich, M.D., evp, research and development at Juno, said in a statement.

    Juno was launched in 2013 by The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Juno raised about $265 million through an initial public offering in December 2014. Before the IPO, the company had privately raised more than $300 million from investors that include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

    MEDI4736 is designed to fight cancer by blocking signals from PD-L1 that help tumors avoid detection by the immune system. MEDI4736 has been advanced into Phase III clinical development in non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer.

    MEDI4736 is being evaluated as monotherapy and in combination with a CTLA-4 (tremelimumab) in lung cancer, across the spectrum of the disease, under the OCEANS clinical development program. In head and neck cancer, MEDI4736 is being investigated both as monotherapy and in combination with tremelimumab, focusing on patients with different PD-L1 expression status who have failed to show improvement following chemotherapy.

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