Immune-Onc Therapeutics will acquire exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize novel cancer immunotherapies and other biotherapeutics from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW), the company and the UT System said today.

In addition, Immune-Onc has launched a multiyear research collaboration with UTHealth and UTSW to discover and develop new biotherapeutics that modulate the immune system under the license agreement, whose value was not disclosed.

The collaboration will use the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibody Lead Optimization and Development Core Facility at UTHealth to advance lead antibodies from academic laboratories. The core facility aims to provide state-wide support and services to advance lead antibodies from academic laboratories to preclinical development.

“This is an important step in translating our therapeutic antibody from discovery to development,” said Zhiqiang An, Ph.D., director of the core facility at UTHealth, where he is director of the Texas Therapeutics Institute at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, as well as a professor of molecular medicine, and the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry.

The collaboration is the second announced in as many weeks by Immune-Onc with an academic partner. On March 28, the company announced a similar, exclusive, global, licensing agreement with Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to develop and commercialize novel biotherapeutics, with applications in cancer immunotherapy and other diseases.

Immune-Onc is a Palo Alto, CA, startup founded last year to develop therapeutic antibodies for cancer treatment, with a focus on immuno-oncology products. On September 1, 2016, the company said it closed a $7 million Series A financing, with major investors that included Fame Mount and CLI Ventures.

Immune-Onc was co-founded by Charlene Liao, Ph.D., who serves as its president and CEO, and Guo-Liang Yu, Ph.D., a serial entrepreneur and industry veteran. Dr. Liao was project team leader at Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, where she spent nearly 14 years leading oncology and immunology drug development programs from preclinical to Phase III. Dr. Liao was a fellow of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and a special fellow of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Dr. Yu was co-founder and CEO of Epitomics, an antibody company acquired by Abcam in 2012 for $170 million. His numerous board and management positions include executive chairman of oncology platform company Crown Bioscience, and venture partner of OrbiMed, a healthcare and life sciences-dedicated investment firm.

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