AstraZeneca’s MedImmune subsidiary will acquire exclusive rights to Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ Phase I/II INO-3112 immunotherapy, which targets cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18, the companies said today. MedImmune and Inovio will also collaborate to develop up to two more cancer vaccine candidates under a license agreement and collaboration that could generate up to $727.5 million-plus for Inovio.

MedImmune said it intends to study INO-3112 in combination with selected immunotherapy molecules within its pipeline in HPV-driven cancers.

INO-3112 combines Inovio’s VGX-3100, its immunotherapy targeting HPV-caused diseases, with its DNA-based immune activator encoded for IL-12. INO-3112 is designed to work by generating killer T-cell responses that are able to destroy HPV 16- and 18-driven tumors, which are believed responsible for more than 70% of cervical precancers and cancers.

The vaccine is in three Phase I/II clinical trials for cervical and head and neck cancers. Earlier this year, Inovio reported preliminary data showing that INO-3112 generated significant antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses in three of four patients with head and neck cancer associated with HPV types 16 and 18. The positive results represented the first study and first report of antigen-specific T cell immune responses generated in cancer patients after treatment with a DNA immunotherapy, according to Inovio.

MedImmune has agreed to pay Inovio $27.5 million upfront, as well as potential future payments tied to achieving development and commercial milestones for INO-3112 totaling up to $700 million. MedImmune also agreed to fund all development costs for the vaccine, with Inovio entitled to receive up to double-digit tiered royalties on INO-3112 product sales.

Additionally, MedImmune and Inovio have agreed to develop up to two additional DNA-based cancer vaccine products, with MedImmune retaining exclusive rights to develop and commercialize them. Inovio will receive undisclosed development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments, and will be eligible for royalties on worldwide net sales for the additional cancer vaccine products.

The Inovio license and collaboration is the third immuno-oncology partnership announced by AstraZeneca in the past two weeks. On Thursday, the pharma said it will acquire exclusive global rights to Heptares Therapeutics’ immuno-oncology candidate HTL-1071, and possibly other compounds designed to fight cancer by blocking the adenosine A2A receptor, in a deal that could generate up to $510 million-plus for Heptares.

And on August 5, AstraZeneca said it entered into a Phase I/II trial collaboration to assess the safety and efficacy of MedImmune’s anti-PDL1 immune checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab (formerly MEDI4736) in combination with Mirati Therapeutics’ investigational spectrum-selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor mocetinostat. The value of that deal was not disclosed.

AstraZeneca views oncology as a potential sixth “growth platform,” having committed to launching six new cancer treatments to market between 2013 and 2020. In November, AstraZeneca projected that oncology would generate its largest proportion of pipeline-driven revenue growth, with the potential to grow to a quarter of total company sales by 2023.

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