Argos Therapeutics: Technology Platforms, HIV immunotherapy and Partnering

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Video title: Argos Therapeutics: Technology Platforms, HIV immunotherapy and Partnering
Released on: January 22, 2010. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Paul Larsmon talks with John Bonfiglio, CEO at Argos Therapeutics.

Filmed at BIO-Europe 2009, they discuss:

• The company’s origins

• Argos’ platform technologies to combat infectious diseases and cancer

• the US$ 21M National Institutes of Health (NIH) contract to develop Argos’ Arcelis HIV immunotherapy platform

• The company’s search for a partner for developing CD83, a soluble recombinant protein proving to be an effective immunosuppressant in several mouse model systems

The company's origins
Paul Larsmon:
Hello and welcome to BIO-Europe 2009 here in the Austrian capital of Vienna. With me is John Bonfiglio, the CEO of Argos Therapeutics. Welcome John.
John Bonfiglio:
Thank you Paul.
Paul Larsmon:
Tell me little bit about your company first of all?
John Bonfiglio:
Argos is a company that's located in Durham, North Carolina. It's been around since around 2001. We are involved in cell therapy in particularly we are doing autologous personalized cell therapy for the treatment of infectious disease and cancer. And the whole company was founded on the concept of being able to use this technology as a platform technology so that one particular technology can be used to treat many different types of disease, all components of the product come from the patient themselves that's the unique about the product.
Argos platform technologies to combat infectious diseases and cancer
Paul Larsmon:
It's called Arcelis-technology?
John Bonfiglio:
Arcelis is the platform technology, yes.
Paul Larsmon:
How does it work?
John Bonfiglio:
Well it's a very interesting, what we do is we will take for example a patient that has cancer, renal cell carcinoma is the cancer we are working on currently when the current standard of care for that therapy is to remove the kidney from the patient that's infected with a tumor, we ask the surgeon for a very small sample of that tumor, we have it shift back to our facility in North Carolina and we extract the RNA from that tumor. We then do what you've seen on TV as what in shows like CSI they amplify the DNA, we amplify the RNA from that tumor, while that's being done we go back to the patient and we do a luciferase-technology on the patient which essentially is removing certain blood cells from the patient that is flown back to our facility in North Carolina and we use that to produce dendritic cells, dendritic cells are known to be the most important cell for turning the immune system on or off. And so the what these dendritic cells do is they present foreign substances to the immune system and tell the immune system to fight it, so we take our very, very potent and proprietary immune based dendritic cells and we load them with the RNA from the tumor then the we inject these into the patient and it tells the immune system to fight against those tumor cells and that's the theory behind the entire treatment. What's unique about it is we do everything in our facility in North Carolina. And we only need a very small amount of tumor were in the case of HIV which we are also doing at this point we only need a very small amount of plasma that's infected with the virus in order to make this product and one, one turn of the manufacturing will produce about three-years worth of therapy for a patient. So if we think it can be very cost effective and very efficient that producing a product that's solely based on the patient's own body immune system.
The US$ 21M National Institutes of Health (NIH) contract to develop Argos' Arcelis HIV immunotherapy platform
Paul Larsmon:
Fascinating again and so as you say so many different uses for different illnesses, I got to believe you just had some important new Phase II results through regarding the HIV?
John Bonfiglio:
Yes we have and it's interesting I've been involved with other companies with HIV for a number of years in the holy grail for immune based therapy has always been able it being able to show control of Viral Load in patients that were infected with HIV using an immune based therapy. No one up to now has been able to do that and we've recently shown in this Phase II trial that we can control Viral Load in these patients simply with our immune based therapy and we presented the results in Paris a few weeks ago and it was met with a lot of enthusiasm. And in fact we have a $21 million contract with NIH [PharmaDeals ID = 25595] to produce the next generation HIV immune based therapy and we are going to use that money to fund another trial that will start next year in the same space as well.
The company's search for a partner for developing CD83, a soluble recombinant protein proving to be an effective immunosuppressant in several mouse model systems
Paul Larsmon:
And you've got some other programs in the pipeline as well?
John Bonfiglio:
Yes, we have a program that we are very excited about it's a stand-alone off-the-shelf product called CD83. And CD83 is a protein that's found on cell surfaces and we were able to isolate it and produce it as a stand-alone protein. What we found in animal models of organ transplantation is that this product has remarkable qualities it prevents rejection of organs in animals especially in mice right now from different species of mice without having to continue to chronically inject these patients with the drug. And we believe that if it's successful in humans as it is in the animal models that we are going to have a complete change in the way organ transplantation is done in the way people are treated. The other interesting thing about this molecule it also works in many animal models of autoimmune disease, we've looked at in the mouse AE - EAE model which is a model for treating multiple sclerosis. We are looking at an IBD which is irritable bowel disease. And we are also looking at a several other autoimmune disease models such as lupus and other things of that nature. So we're very excited about this and I think there is a lot of technology in the company that still needs to be exploited.
Paul Larsmon:
The Arcelis-technology it's very much about personalized medicine isn't it? Do you think that's the way forward?
John Bonfiglio:
Yes I do, I think people many people have different definitions for a personalized medicine, some people believe that personalized medicine is being able to use a diagnostic to determine ahead of time whether a particular therapy will work. I view personalized medicine as being able to use the patients on bodily systems to fight disease or prevent disease and in this case I think Arcelis is at the top of that, that line of thought and that type of therapy.
Paul Larsmon:
Now you are a private company, well funded why are you here at this particular conference?
John Bonfiglio:
Well with our focus on Arcelis our cell therapy platform we believe that it will be a good idea that look for a partner for our CD83 program. CD83 as I said has many interesting aspects to it and we want to make sure that our potential partners are kept in the loop in terms of where we are with the development and then in progress we've been making. So we are here talking to several large pharma companies about potential licensing deal with the product.
Paul Larsmon:
Any interest?
John Bonfiglio:
Yes we have a lot of interest right now and we are very excited about it.
Paul Larsmon:
John Bonfiglio, thank you very much for joining us.
John Bonfiglio:
Thank you for having me Paul.
John Bonfiglio
Chief Executive Officer
John Bonfiglio joined Argos Therapeutics in 2007. Before joining Argos, Dr. Bonfiglio was President and CEO of Immune Response Corporation, where he led that company's business development strategy and oversaw multiple clinical trials, manufacturing and the development of biologic immuno-stimulatory therapeutic agents. Prior to joining Immune Response, Dr. Bonfiglio served as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Cypress Bioscience, where his responsibilities included business development, marketing, research and development, clinical development, strategic direction, and budgeting. He has also served as President and CEO of Peregrine Pharmaceuticals, as Director of the Strategic Business Unit at Baxter Healthcare Corporation, and as Director of Business Planning at Allergan. Dr. John Bonfiglio holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and received his Ph.D. and Masters in Organic Chemistry from University of California San Diego. He received a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from the State University of New York Stony Brook.
Argos Therapeutics
Argos Therapeutics is an immunotherapy company developing new treatments for cancer, infectious and autoimmune diseases, and transplantation rejection. The Company has generated multiple platform technologies and a diverse pipeline of products based on its expertise in the biology of dendritic cells the master switch that turns the immune system on or off.