Phase I AML candidate IPH 2102 works by blocking KIR on natural killer cells.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is paying Innate Pharma $35 million up front for exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the latter’s Phase I-stage anticancer antibody IPH 2102, and related candidates, for all indications. The antibody is designed to block killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) on natural killer cells, as an approach to activating NK cells and leading to tumor cell destruction.

Under terms of the agreement the French firm could receive up to an additional $430 million in development and commercialization milestones and tiered double-digit sales royalties. Innate will continue to develop IPH 2102 through to the end of Phase II studies as a treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and provide BMS with preclinical support. It claims the agreement represents the largest ever biotech licensing deal signed in France.

Innate specializes in the development of monoclonal antibodies targeting receptors and pathways that control the activation of innate immune cells, both for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory conditions. Exploiting key expertise in immunopharmacology and antibody technology, the firm has established a panel of molecular and cellular assays and in vivo models for assessing drug pharmacodynamics and pharmacotoxicology.

Lead candidate IPH 2101 is another anti-KIR monoclonal antibody designed to potentiate natural killer (NK cell) activation. The antibody is currently undergoing Phase II evaluation as a treatment for multiple myeloma. The Phase II program comprises three trials evaluating IPH 2101 either as maintenance therapy, as combination therapy with lenalinomide for multiple myeloma relapse, or as initial therapy in patients with smouldering multiple myeloma. Two separate antibody programs in chronic inflammation have been licensed out to Novo Nordisk.

In May Innate Pharma teamed up with immunotherapeutics firm Transgene to establish a jointly owned company, Platine Pharma Services, focused on providing fee-based immunomonitoring services for the preclinical and clinical development of immunomodulating drugs including vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and cytokines.

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