With head turned by AbbVie oncology deal, Immunome decides not to top up its COVID antibody cocktail

Riding high off a cancer-focused deal with AbbVie, Immunome has become the latest biotech to decide that an investigational COVID-19 therapy is no longer one of its pipeline priorities.

The company began a phase 1b trial of the candidate, dubbed IMM-BCP-01, in June. Dosing of the first cohort has already successfully completed with no significant treatment-related adverse events reported, the company said in its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday morning.

Despite this, the Pennsylvania-based biotech has decided to “seek a partner in order to continue the trial and for any further development activities.”

IMM-BCP-01 is a three-antibody cocktail that targets three different parts of the spike protein on the coronavirus in an effort to elicit a more durable immune response.  The company is using the same platform and mechanism in oncology to target IL-38, a cytokine that it believes operates as an immune checkpoint. 

Immunome previously reported that in vitro studies showed IMM-BCP-01 remained effective against the omicron variant, outperforming a preclinical version of GSK’s authorized monoclonal antibody sotrovimab. The candidate has had an eventful ride to phase 1, receiving a two-month clinical hold last year while the FDA requested more information on preparation and administration at clinical sites.

Immunome was awarded $13.3 million from the Department of Defense (DOD) back in early 2021 to develop a biosynthetic convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 that could be scaled up. The DOD is listed as a collaborator for the phase 1 trial.

But despite the previous government backing and positive data, it’s perhaps unsurprising why Immunome’s attention has turned away from COVID-19. In January, the company inked a solid tumor deal with AbbVie worth $2.8 billion in potential biobucks. The Big Pharma wants to use Immunome’s human memory B-cell platform to identify up to 10 new target-antibody pairs arising from three specified tumor types.

“We look forward to continuing to execute on our momentum throughout the upcoming year as we advance our pipeline, including an IND submission for our lead oncology program, IMM-ONC-01 (anti-IL-38 antibody), and working closely with AbbVie on our collaboration to ultimately make a difference in cancer patients’ lives,” Immunome CEO Purnanand Sarma, Ph.D., said in the release.

Immunome isn’t the only company spring cleaning a COVID-19 asset from its portfolio this week. Vaxart announced yesterday that it was pulling back from an oral COVID-19 vaccine program at the same time as 27% of staff were laid off.