Moffitt Cancer Center has inked a licensing deal with TuHURA Biopharma, Inc. a Seattle-based start-up, to develop new immunotherapy treatments for cancer that will apply to a great number of cancers and a larger patient population.

The Deal

The agreement will offer TuHURA exclusive rights to develop Moffitt’s first-in-class bifunctional immunoconjugates that are cancer cell binding agents linked to immune system activators.  These agents help target the immune system activators to the tumor microenvironment and cancer cells focusing an immune attack on the tumor while avoiding normal, non-cancer cells. This novel bifunctional immunoconjugate could increase a tumor’s susceptibility to immune attack, with the promise of increasing the effectiveness of immunotherapy among more patients with less toxicity and severity of side-effects.

With this agreement, Moffitt can now build on the incredible advancements we have seen in immune-oncology, bringing novel treatments to patients, while delivering a safer and more effective approach reports Alan F. List, MD, president and CEO of Moffitt.  He continued “The potential of this effort is enormous and we are pleased to work with TuHURA to help drive research and development of the next critical breakthroughs in cancer care.”

Moffitt R&D

Researchers at Moffitt have identified a cellular target which, when blocked, decreases the immune suppressing capabilities of the tumor microenvironment—the immediate area surrounding a tumor, including blood vessels, supporting cells and immune cells. By impacting the tumor’s microenvironment, tumors become more vulnerable to attack by a patient’s immune system. This creates an advantageous opportunity for immunotherapies to be more effective among a larger population of patients. The technology’s dual mode of action increases tumor microenvironment susceptibility to immune attack while targeting immunotherapy directly to the cancer cells, focusing immune attacks to where the tumor lives, potentially avoiding attack on healthy cells in the body.

James A Bianco, MD, TuHURA’s principal founder and executive chairman, noted, “Having reviewed more than 100 new technologies among 40 leading academic institutions and cancer research centers across the United States, the technology developed at Moffitt has the greatest potential to advance the field of cancer immunotherapy. Decreasing the immune suppression caused by the tumor microenvironment is an area of intense research among both academic and pharmaceutical research.”

Moving Forward

Moffitt and TuHURA’s work will seek to create first-in-class bifunctional immunoconjugates for both solid tumors and blood related cancers. The approach builds upon key progress immunotherapy has yielded in cancer care, specifically with checkpoint inhibitors.

“Moving forward with Moffitt’s technology, TuHURA could exponentially expand access for cancer patients to novel, cutting-edge treatments not currently available,” added List. “Our goal is to build a new model that can treat myriad more individuals facing cancer successfully.”

TuHURA will first focus on lung and head and neck cancer. The company will see the new bifunctional immunoconjugates through the clinical development process to United States Food and Drug Administration approval.

Source: FLRNet

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