Roche, Inovio partner to advance immunotherapies
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


BASEL, Switzerland—Roche has entered into an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for the research, development and commercialization of Inovio's highly optimized, multi-antigen DNA immunotherapies for prostate cancer and hepatitis B.  
Per the terms of the agreement, Roche will pay Inovio $10 million up front, and will also provide preclinical research and development support. Inovio will be eligible for near-term regulatory milestone payments as well as development and commercialization milestones, for a potential total of up to $412.5 million. Inovio could receive additional development milestone payments if Roche decides to pursue INO-5150 or INO- 1800, the licensed compounds, in additional indications. Inovio will also receive up to double-digit tiered royalties on sales of products resulting form this agreement. The companies will collaborate to further develop the licensed compounds. Roche has also gained an option to license additional vaccine opportunities related to a collaborative research program in oncology.
"This partnership represents an important milestone in Inovio's growth and maturing product portfolio. Roche brings to our immunotherapy candidates its leadership position and track record for developing and marketing innovative first-in-class therapies," Dr. J. Joseph Kim, president and CEO at Inovio, commented in a statement. "Collaborating with the world's preeminent oncology development partner allows us to rapidly advance two of our promising near- clinical stage immunotherapy products from our product pipeline as we continue development of our Phase II lead product, VGX-3100, for treatment of HPV-related cancers and dysplasia."  
Roche's license includes INO-5150 and INO-1800, DNA-based vaccines that are both in preclinical development, as well as the use of CELLECTRA, Inovio's electroporation technology for the delivery of vaccines. INO-5150 is a dual-antigen synthetic DNA vaccine that targets prostate-specific membrane antigen and prostate-specific antigen to treat prostate cancer. INO-1800, geared toward the treatment of hepatitis B, has demonstrated preclinical potential to treat hepatitis B infection. In addition to demonstrating a killing function, the vaccine-specific T-cells also showed the ability to migrate to the liver and remain there, clearing target cells. In preclinical work, both compounds have demonstrated robust T-cell responses in animal models.
"At Roche we are always interested in finding first-in-class and best-in-class therapies that may become the next generation treatments for patients with different types of cancer. INO-5150 will allow promising combination opportunities with the Roche portfolio, particularly with our emerging cancer immunotherapy molecules," Hy Levitsky, head of Cancer Immunology Experimental Medicine at Roche, said in a press release regarding the license agreement.
"We are very excited to have this potentially very important and novel mechanism of action as part of our portfolio as we seek to address the significant unmet medical need in chronic hepatitis B infection," said Janet Hammond, head of Infectious Diseases Discovery & Translational Area at Roche.  
SOURCE: Inovio press release                
Code: E09111300

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