Immunocore; Working with Big Pharma to get us closer to a cure for cancer




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Video title: Immunocore; Working with Big Pharma to get us closer to a cure for cancer
Released on: October 11, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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  • Summary
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Further to their recent deals with Genentech and GSK, Eva-Lotta Allan, CBO of Immunocore talks to Fintan Walton about how this privately owned, clinical-stage, biotechnology company is discovering and developing highly innovative biotherapeutics known as ImmTACs for the treatment of cancer and a range of other serious diseases. She explains how their world-leading proprietary T Cell Receptor (TCR) technology exploits the power of the body’s own immune system to find and kill diseased cells and why this is creating such interest among Big Pharma.
Immunocore 's focus and products
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here in Oxford. On this show I have Eva-Lotta Allan, who is the Chief Business Officer at a company called Immunocore, which is based here locally in Oxfordshire, welcome.
Eva Lotta Allan :
Thank you. Thanks very much.
Fintan Walton:
Immunocore is a company has just done a couple of deals recently but Eva-Lotta maybe you can tell us little bit about the business, you know it's focus of research and so forth.
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes, the company has actually been around since 2008 but it's root traces all the way back to '99 and the technology was spun out of Oxford University and to really exploit T cell receptor sciences and actually the whole company then was acquired in 2006 by a German Biotech called MediGene [PharmaDeals ID = 25159]. The company was founded by Professor Bent Jakobsen who was at Oxford University you know dedicated his scientific life to the T-cell receptors and he is the CSO of the company today, so he together with the CEO James Noble founded first of all Avidex but subsequently then spun out Immunocore out of MediGene in 2008 really to focus on this bispecific platform that we have established.
Fintan Walton:
So is the company privately funded?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes we are privately funded by so called business angels and we have no venture capital backing at this stage. So we are now obviously raising money through collaborative income, non-dilutive cash coming into the company, so this is you know the current way forward.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Eva Lotta Allan :
The bispecific or bifunctional drug that we have created it has two parts to it, one part is a very high affinity T cell receptor and I believe we are the only company in the world that can actually produce these high affinity T cell receptors and we link that T cell receptor to a small antibody fragment, in our case it's an anti-CD3 fragment which is an effective function.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Eva Lotta Allan :
This ImmTAC as we call it immune modulating T cell receptor against cancer allows us then to link the T cell with the cancer cell and allow the T cell to kill the cancer cells.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so it facilitates the process basically speeds it up?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Absolutely, yes.
Fintan Walton:
Acts like a catalyst in a sense?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes, absolutely.
Fintan Walton:
In that sense, so obviously that provides you with the platform effectively?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes.
Partnerships with Genentech and GSK
Fintan Walton:
So then from a strategic point of view how do you develop that and how do you end up doing the partnerships that you are starting to do now?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes, it's been a long time coming, so we have recently signed two partnerships with Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 53235] and with GSK [PharmaDeals ID = 53402] earlier this year in June and July of 2013 and I think really the pharmaceutical companies opened their eyes to Immunocore's technology when we published a paper in Nature Medicine and the realization that this technology does work it's scalable, manufacturable, we have a product in clinical trials that we've completed a Phase I entering now into Phase IIa in patients with malignant melanoma suddenly the pharmaceutical companies started to listen up and both of these partnerships are multi target deals where we work with slightly different way, with Genentech we deliver preclinical candidates against specific targets, we structure the collaborations with exclusivity around the targets and in the case of GSK we will also carry out the initial clinical trials.
Immunocore 's technology
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so the targets are identified by the partner companies, so these are targets that have been developed by yourselves so far and then they come along and say yes we want to take those?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes, it's actually the targets that we have developed and validated and I should say we have a portfolio of about 20 different targets at the moment, it's a growing portfolio, what's unusual about this is that these are predominantly intracellular targets which cannot be addressed by other biological platforms such as monoclonal antibodies or fragments and scaffolds.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Eva Lotta Allan :
And those platforms can only address the cell surface protein that are accessible and that's about 10% of all the targets where as we can also address the other 90%.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so in a true way it's just disruptive technology really, isn't it?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes absolutely, so this is I believe why companies like Genentech would come to us they cannot do this in-house internally. So the targets are very different from the targets that they would typically be working on in-house in their in-house research.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so it's more or less like a multiplier effect really isn't it?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes absolutely, so I think we see that monoclonal antibodies have been enormously successful as a drug class but at some point these targets will run out and we have opened up a new Pandora's Box with new targets, novel, validated targets, highly specific technology towards these targets with the help from this high affinity T-cell receptor. So we hope that we will have a potent cancer drugs that would actually be relevant in many different tumors such as breast, lung, prostate, etcetera all of the big ones.
Economics of the deals
Fintan Walton:
Okay excellent, just give us some idea of the scale of these particular partnerships because you've done, announced two as you just said are just over the summer, so give us some idea of the economics?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes certainly, so in the case of Genentech they will pay us between $10 and $20 million each time they trigger a new target program and in addition to that we will receive milestone payments for each program of up to about $300 million, so this would be a very large deal into the multi billions. In the case of GSK it's structured slightly differently, we will receive a total of about 142 million pounds in preclinical payments across all the programs and then in addition to that about 200 million pounds in development milestones and sales milestones per program.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Eva Lotta Allan :
So both are significant deals and you know for the two first deals that the company has done it's certainly a great achievement.
Fintan Walton:
Right and of course one of the great things about having a platform is that you can generate so many different potential leads from that?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Yes.
Future plans
Fintan Walton:
Of course not everything is going to get through but at least you've got your odds are in your favor hopefully if getting some of those large sums of money coming through. So Eva-Lotta just going into the future now, what's the way forward now for Immunocore?
Eva Lotta Allan :
Well we are looking first of all to recruit and establish a large organization to deliver in our partnerships, we certainly feel there is room for additional partners and as you can imagine we have had lot of interests since we announced the collaborations with Genentech and GSK, we also want to dedicate more effort to our internal programs, we have one clinical program at the moment and we are taking additional research programs towards the clinic and of course you know this will allow us then to almost have a two pronged approach where we combine the elements of the collaborative income coming in and reinvesting that into our own R&D.
Fintan Walton:
Eva-Lotta, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Eva Lotta Allan :
Thank you.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Eva Lotta Allan
CBO
At the time of recording this PTV interview Eva Lotta Allan serves as CBO of Immunocore . Eva-Lotta Allan has over two decades of business development experience from the biotechnology and life science industry of private and public companies. She joined Immunocore as Chief Business Officer in May 2013. Eva-Lotta was previously at Ablynx NV, where she served as Chief Business Officer since 2006. Prior to Ablynx, Ms Allan served as Senior Director of Business Development and Site Operations (Europe) at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. She received her degree in microbiology from the University of Stockholm.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Immunocore
Immunocore is a privately owned biotechnology company focused on the development of engineered monoclonal T-cell Receptors (mTCRs) as the next evolutionary step after monoclonal antibodies. Unlike conventional monoclonal antibodies, Immunocore's mTCRs are not restricted to targeting cells via their membrane proteins. Instead, mTCRs use the power of the body's own immune surveillance system, the T-Cell Receptor, as a means of targeting cells differentially expressing any protein, including intracellular ones. This platform technology opens up the ability of targeting cells based upon numerous known and well validated molecular targets unsuitable for monoclonal antibodies, thus removing a key bottleneck to the future development of effective biological therapeutics. Immunocore is developing a broad platform of mTCR-based therapeutics for the treatment of a range of cancers, type I diabetes and HIV.