Lion Biotechnologies and MedImmune (AstraZeneca’s global biologics R&D business) announced an agreement today to jointly conduct clinical and preclinical research in immuno-oncology.

Lion will fund and conduct two Phase IIa trials combining MedImmune’s PD-L1 inhibitor durvalumab with its tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma, and head and neck cancer.

Preclinical research under the agreement will focus on identifying and evaluating therapeutically effective combinations of MedImmune’s checkpoint antibodies, using TIL as an in vitro model of the tumor microenvironment. The research will be funded by MedImmune and conducted by Lion.

“This collaboration with MedImmune will allow us to investigate combination strategies using TIL and immunotherapeutic agents,” said Elma Hawkins, Ph.D., Lion’s president and CEO. “In preclinical studies, TIL and anti-PD-1/PD-L1 combination regimens have demonstrated significant anti-tumor activity, suggesting a synergistic effect.”

Durvalumab has been the focus of several collaborations this year. In October Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca expanded a five-month-old immuno-oncology collaboration to investigate durvalumab with Lilly molecules designed to target the immune system. In August, AZ collaborated with Peregrine to assess Peregrine’s bavituximab in combination with durvalumab.

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