BioLineRx buys Agalimmune to expand cancer pipeline

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BioLineRx thinks the drug could turn "cold" tumors "hot."

BioLineRx has bought Agalimmune to expand its immuno-oncology pipeline. The takeover adds the synthetic alpha-gal immunotherapy AGI-134 to BioLineRx’s pipeline as the drug nears the start of a first-in-human trial in solid tumors.

Tel Aviv, Israel-based BioLineRx is paying $6 million (€5.6 million) upfront—split evenly between cash and stock—to buy Agalimmune. In return for the outlay, BioLineRx is gaining AGI-134, a preclinical-stage asset it thinks could make immunotherapies effective against solid tumors that evade the attacks of today’s therapeutics.

“AGI-134 harnesses naturally occurring, pre-existing antibodies to elicit a tumor-specific immune response that is unique to the treated individual and provides a universal, small-molecule approach to personalized immunotherapy,” BioLineRx CEO Philip Serlin said in a statement. “The subsequent stimulation and recruitment of T cells, which recognize the patient's own neo-antigens, to the tumor site, has the potential of transforming 'cold' tumors into 'hot' ones.”

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London-based Agalimmune, which has labs in Sandwich, U.K., and Boston, Massachusetts, has generated limited data to support Serlin’s belief in AGI-134. Agalimmune has tested the candidate in a preclinical model of melanoma and run combination studies with a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor that BioLineRx sees as suggesting it can broaden the use of such therapeutics while boosting the rate and duration of the responses they trigger.

BioLineRx will now take responsibility for putting AGI-134 through more rigorous tests. The drug is set to enter a phase 1 trial in solid tumor patients in the first half of next year. By injecting the drug into tumors, BioLineRx thinks it can trigger a process that starts with the binding of antigal antibodies and proceeds to activate complement-dependent and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity.

The candidate grew out of work Uri Galili, Ph.D., performed on the use of intratumoral alpha-gal glycolipids to treat solid tumors at the University of Massachusetts. Other companies, such as Horizon Discovery’s Avvinity Therapeutics, are also trying to use abundant antigal antibodies to treat cancer.

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