Firm claims preclinical studies suggest that blocking tyrosine phosphatase boosts anticancer immune response.

Apeiron Biologics negotiated an exclusive option to license a series of tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor (TPI) anticancer compounds from the Cleveland Clinic. The organizations have also established a framework for an Apeiron-sponsored research agreement relating to development of the compounds.

The TPI molecules are designed to inhibit the tyrosine phosphatase SHP-1, which acts as a negative regulator of immune cell activation, Apeiron notes. Blocking SHP-1 is expected to trigger activation of the immune system to fight cancer. The firm says preclinical models have confirmed that the candidates demonstrate anticancer activity and favorable toxicity profiles as orally available drugs.

Apeiron’s clinical pipeline includes candidates for the potential treatment of inflammatory skin conditions, neuroblastoma, and other cancers. APN301 (hu14.18-IL2) is a recombinant fusion protein that links the monoclonal antibody hu14.18 with interleukin-2 for the treatment of neuroblastoma and potentially other cancers. Phase II studies against neuroblastoma are in progress, and Phase I evaluation for melanoma has been completed.

A second clinical candidate, APN201 (rhSOD), is a liposomal formulation of recombinant human superoxide dismutase. APN201 is in development against inflammatory skin conditions, primarily for treating skin damage resulting from radiation therapy for cancer.

Until Janaury 2010, Apeiron’s lead project was APN01 (recombinant human angiotensin converting enzyme 2, rhACE2), an enzyme biotherapeutic in Phase I development for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome. The product was at that point licensed to GlaxoSmithKline in a deal through which Apeiron earned £11 million up front (about $18 million at today’s exchange rates) in the form of cash and an equity investment.  

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