Immuneering, saving cash for universal-RAS candidate, suspends neuroscience programs

Immuneering is going all in on its universal-RAS candidate, leading it to suspend work on discovery-stage neuroscience programs and throw its resources behind an oncology program that is on course to deliver early clinical data in the coming months.

Over the past year, the biotech has narrowed its focus by deprioritizing and pausing covalent MEK and PI3K programs and now by suspending its neuroscience programs. The neuroscience programs were in the early stages of drug discovery and, as such, would require Immuneering to invest time and money to show their potential.

The Massachusetts-based biotech decided these resources are better spent elsewhere. Suspending the neuroscience programs has bought Immuneering a little more time, with its cash runway now due to extend into the fourth, rather than the third, quarter of 2024. 

Pulling back from neuroscience cost five people their jobs, a spokesperson said. The biotech ended last year with 73 full-time employees, 61 of whom worked in R&D. This marked a slightly expanded head count on 2021, when the company had 65 full-time employees, including 54 in R&D roles.

Immuneering will use the money freed up by the R&D rethink to deliver clinical data on IMM-1-104 in advanced solid tumors. Based on preclinical data, the biotech thinks the dual-MEK inhibitor may work in most RAS-mutated tumors and has initiated a phase 1/2a clinical trial to test the idea. Initial safety and pharmacokinetic data are due around the middle of the year.

Multiple MEK inhibitors have come to market since GSK won approval for Mekinist, which is now owned by Novartis, in 2013, but Immuneering sees scope to improve on drugs' tolerability and durability while ensuring resistance to CRAF-bypass. The biotech has designed IMM-1-104 to have a half-life of around two hours in humans, compared to days for other MEK inhibitors, to improve tolerability. 

Immuneering has a second cancer candidate, IMM-6-415, that is scheduled to reach the IND filing stage late this year.