Vedantra Pharmaceuticals said today it will partner with Neon Therapeutics to develop cancer vaccines, through a nonexclusive research collaboration whose value was not disclosed.

The companies will explore combining Vedantra’s albumin-binding, lymph node-targeting amphiphile technology with Neon’s capabilities in neoantigen vaccine research. The objective of the joint research collaboration, Vedantra said, is to continue development of therapeutic vaccines that raise immune responses against neoantigens that allow the body to naturally expand immune cells capable of destroying infected or cancerous cells, without harming normal tissues.

Vedantra uses albumin-binding amphiphilic peptides designed to deliver smaller neoantigen payloads directly to the lymph node, an approach the company says produces large quantities of T cells that kill tumors by homing in on specific neoantigens on the tumor cell surface. The technology creates a lipid–neoantigen conjugate intended to bind to albumin upon injection, thus directly carrying the neoantigen to the lymph node where T cells are primed.

“Although our albumin-binding amphiphile technologies have the potential to be effective at combating cancer by enhancing the body’s natural immune responses, our partnership has clear benefits to exploring innovative ways to synergistically enhance both of our programs,” Vedantra executive chairman Julian Adams, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Neon’s lead candidate NEO-PV-01 is a personalized neoantigen vaccine that uses a proprietary epitope computational engine called RECON (Real-time Epitope Computation for Oncology). According to the company, RECON is designed to ensure accurate mutation calling, using unique tools and data to ensure that the most immunogenic epitopes are selected for ultimate manufacturing.

NEO-PV-01 builds upon initial clinical trial collaborations by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Last year, Neon launched its first clinical study assessing  the vaccine candidate in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s marketed cancer immunotherapy Opdivo® (nivolumab) in patients with measurable metastatic melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer, and bladder cancer. Dana-Farber is also enrolling patients in two investigator-initiated trials studying NEO-PV-01 in melanoma and glioblastoma.

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