Roche said today it will launch a CHF 100 million ($100.1 million) global network of 21 academic centers focused on cancer immunotherapy R&D.
The new Centers of Research Excellence (imCORE™) Network aims to advance promising new immuno-oncology treatments by quickly carrying out preclinical and clinical research, as well as aggregating and sharing data.
imCORE will consist of clinical researchers from 21 “leading” academic research institutions in cancer immunotherapy—none of them identified in the announcement—who will work with researchers from Roche and Genentech, a member of the Roche group in the U.S.
Roche says its immuno-oncology approach, which it calls personalized cancer immunotherapy, or PCI, “encompasses the search for reliable biomarkers that correlates with clinical benefit either as a monotherapy or in combination, and across a broad range of tumor types.” Roche’s PCI program consists of “more than 20” candidates, of which 10 are in clinical trials.
In addition to new treatments, imCORE will work with Roche to develop diagnostic technologies and gather and apply emerging data, Roche said.
By exploring new ways to activate a person’s immune system to fight cancer, Roche reasons, imCORE can identifying new approaches that expand the number of people who benefit from cancer immunotherapy.
Roche’s cancer immunotherapy pipeline includes Tecentriq® (atezolizumab), which last month won FDA approval for a second indication, metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer with disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy, and have progressed on an FDA-approved targeted therapy if their tumor has epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene abnormalities.
The pipeline also includes three Phase I solid tumor candidates:
- RG6078 (also called GDC-0919 or NLG919), a small-molecule investigational immunotherapy designed to inhibit indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), being developed for various solid tumor indications through an up-to-$1.15 billion collaboration with NewLink Genetics launched in 2014;
- Emactuzumab (RG7155), a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting colony stimulating factor-1 receptor (CSF-1R) designed to inhibit the CSF-1–mediated survival of tumor-promoting M2 macrophages without affecting tumor-killing M1 macrophages;
- RG7888 (anti-OX40, MOXR0916), a humanized monoclonal antibody designed to target OX40.
“The goal of imCORE is to facilitate access to new technologies and emerging data among the top researchers around the world,” Sandra Horning, M.D., Roche CMO and head of Global Product Development, said in a statement.
Roche said its spending for imCORE will support basic and clinical research collaborations related to cancer immunotherapy—and will be incremental to its ongoing R&D in cancer immunotherapy.