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APEIRON pact for new checkpoint inhibitor with IMBA and MedUni Wien
Vienna, Austria - Tuesday, July 3, 2018, 09:00 Hrs  [IST]
APEIRON Biologics AG, a company focused on cancer immunotherapy has announced the signing of an agreement with the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology GmbH (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni Wien). The agreement grants APEIRON an exclusive worldwide license to a novel technology targeting casitas B cell lymphoma-b (Cbl-b).

Cbl-b is an intracellular checkpoint limiting the immune reactivity in various immune cells, such as T cells and NK cells, and was originally discovered by Dr. Josef Penninger, Scientific Director of IMBA.

Inhibiting Cbl-b not only distinctly activates immune cells but offers the opportunity to deactivate other relevant checkpoints, including CTLA-4 and PD-L1/PD-1 and thus can be regarded as the “master checkpoint” in cancer immunotherapy. APEIRON is engaged in an innovative cellular immunotherapy project based on the knock-down of Cbl-b (APN401), which is currently in clinical development.

Scientists at IMBA, in cooperation with the Max F Perutz Laboratories of MedUni Vienna, recently discovered a further novel approach targeting Cbl-b by cell-permeable cbl-b inhibiting peptides, which was published in Nature Medicine.

APEIRON has now licensed this promising new research technology from IMBA, to expand the Cbl-b based checkpoint blockade project portfolio. Under the terms of the agreement, APEIRON will be responsible for further preclinical and clinical development of this IMBA technology. IMBA and MedUni Vienna will receive an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments and royalties. Further financial terms were not disclosed.

Peter Llewellyn-Davies, CFO/CBO of APEIRON said: “The in-licensing of this innovative technology allows us to further enhance our presence in the promising area of immune-oncology and strengthens our position in the field of checkpoint inhibitors. The agreement expands our portfolio of immunotherapies targeting Cbl-b and is also an excellent example of an academic-industrial partnership maximizing the strengths of both parties.”

Michael Krebs, Managing Director of IMBA commented: "We at IMBA see ourselves as an important player in the value chain of biomedical innovations. The IMBA is developing completely new approaches for the treatment of human diseases and thereby enabling potentially alternative treatment options for patients. This collaboration with APEIRON, shows once again, that it is worthwhile for the Austrian Government to invest in science and that the geographical proximity of excellent academic research and companies, as can be found at the Vienna BioCenter, represents a promising business model."

Cooperation partner Karl Kuchler, group leader at the Max F Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) of MedUni Vienna also emphasizes the promising use of a Cbl-b blockade for the therapy of life-threatening infectious diseases with pathogenic fungi in addition to cancer immunotherapy: "The joint license agreement between APEIRON, IMBA and MedUni Wien will also make the next important steps possible in the development of new therapeutic applications against highly inflammatory microbial infections."

Casitas B cell lymphoma-b (Cbl-b), an E3 ubiquitin ligase, is a major intracellular immune checkpoint controlling and limiting the activity of immune cells and thereby an integral part of important natural mechanisms to control the balance of the immune system. Blocking Cbl-b leads to a distinct activation of immune cells such as T cells and NK cells; in animal models a robust T cell and NK cell-mediated antitumor immunity can be shown. Cbl-b thus can serve as the basis of promising approaches in cancer immunotherapy.

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