Medicenna BioPharma established a sponsored research agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop fusion protein therapeutics targeting the interleukin-4 receptor (IL4R). The partnership aims to develop preclinical candidates, which Medicenna calls Empowered Cytokines™, based on the firm’s IL-4 and IL-13 Superkine™ (engineered cytokine) platform, which has been licensed from Stanford University.

The joint research with MD Anderson will be headed by Dr. Michael Rosenblum at the immunopharmacology and targeted therapy (ITT) laboratory at MD Anderson’s department of experimental therapeutics. The ITT laboratory has expertise in the development of recombinant therapeutics targeting solid tumors, tumor vasculature, and the tumor microenvironment.

Financial details were not disclosed, but Medicenna said it will fund the collaboration in part using a grant awarded by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Medicenna BioPharma will also retain global rights to develop and commercialize products developed through the collaboration with MD Anderson.

Medicenna Biopharma is a subsidiary of immuno-oncology company Medicenna Therapeutics, which is developing a pipeline of IL4R-targeting Interleukin-4 Empowered Cytokines™ (IL4-ECs). Lead IL-4EC candidate MDNA55 is undergoing a Phase IIb trial, started in December 2016, as a treatment for recurrent glioblastoma (rGB) in adult patients.

MDNA55 has been awarded fast-track designation by the FDA and also orphan drug status in both the U.S. and EU. The candidate is also ready to start in Phase II trials for treating brain metastases and newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme and is poised to start in Phase I trials against pediatric glioma. Medicenna says the candidate could have utility against other solid and central nervous system cancers, bladder and prostate cancers, and blood cancers. 

Medicenna closed the fourth tranche of a CDN$10 million ($7.5 million) round of fundraising in December 2016, which qualified the firm to receive the full $14.1 million of a nondilutive development milestone-dependent, staged grant from the CPRIT. Medicenna was required to raise at least $7 million in matched funding to unlock the full grant.

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