Immunicum® is a biopharmaceutical company that develops therapeutic cancer vaccines based on two different platform technologies, COMBIG and CD70. The company was founded in 2002 as a spin-off from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Its founders had been involved in the field of immunology for many years, studying the rejection process of transplanted organs. The initial purpose was to try to inhibit this rejection process when they realized that instead, it could be used to teach the body to reject harmful substances, such as cancer cells. It was discovered that the main cause of rejection of transplanted organs are the accompanying white donor blood cells – allogeneic dendritic cells – which they began to use as an immune booster as a basis for the creation of cancer vaccines.
In 2002, the founders decided to file a patent application for their discovery and therefore set up a company in order to raise money for the application fees and related costs. The following five years were spent conducting several in vitro and animal studies, which confirmed the mechanism-of-action and lead to a number of articles in scientific journals. During 2007 and 2008, the Company was re-organized with new management, new board members, and a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Since then, a number of important milestones have been reached. Immunicum’s project portfolio consists of four different projects – two of which are in clinical trials – protected by one Swedish patent, one European patent, one U.S. patent and five pending patent applications.
Immunicum’s goal is to offer cancer patients a new treatment alternative that will improve both survival and quality of life. Immunicum’s business idea is to seek out-licensing its main product candidates after completed phase II-studies to larger pharmaceutical companies. Since Immunicum’s vaccines are based on platform technologies, the Company can develop vaccines against any solid tumor.
Immunicum currently runs four different projects, but with a strong focus on the one based on the prioritized COMBIG-platform, on which the vaccines INTUVAX and SUBCUVAX are being developed. The CD70-platform is in a preclinical phase and is currently under development in collaboration with a research group at Uppsala University Hospital. SUBCUVAX has undergone important animal studies with positive results.
For the next development step, Immunicum is looking for partners that can provide an appropriate tumor antigen.
INTUVAX®-RCC – promising clinical phase I/II-data
Immunicum’s leading cancer vaccine, INTUVAX, has completed test in a clinical phase I/II-trial on 12 patients with newly diagnosed renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Data gathered so far shows promising results. No vaccine related serious side effects have been reported, and data has been gathered that supports INTUVAX’s expected mechanism of action and points to tumor specific activation of the immune system. 7 of 12 treated primary tumors show a massive infiltration of cytotoxiv T-cells (CTLS/CD8+ T-cells), five of which are the most massive ever reported in any human study, to the best of Immunicum’s knowledge. Data for the survival rate of patients whose prognosis is poor also looks promising with an ongoing median overall survival in July 2014 of 15 months compared to expected about 9 months with standard treatment. Immunicum has begun planning an upcoming phase II trial in RCC.
In July 2013, Immunicum was granted approval to initiate a clinical phase I/II trial in patients with primary liver cancer (”Hepatocellular Carcinoma” – HCC) and the first patient was treated on October 23, 2013. The study will include 12 patients
and is conducted at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. The primary purpose is to evaluate whether INTUVAX is safe, but also to study the immunological response and any possible increased survival rate.
IMMUNICUM IS LOOKING FOR PARTNERS
Immunicum is looking to out-license its main products after completed phase II-studies but is open for out-licensing of its COMBIG-platform in earlier stages for the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines in new indications. Immunicum is also looking for co-development of INTUVAX in combination with drugs that fight immunosuppression such as different immune check-point inhibitors.