Lion Biotechnologies teams up with MD Anderson Cancer Center on TIL tech

Lion Biotechnologies has signed a long-running pact with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for trials testing its tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy in ovarian cancer, various sarcomas and pancreatic cancer.

On top of this, the pair will also conduct preclinical research to explore the expansion of TIL in other rare tumor types.

Like many in biopharma, Lion is working on harnessing the body’s immune system to battle and ultimately control, and then perhaps kill, cancer.

The San Carlos, California-based company’s candidate LN-144 comes out of the lab of Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), who used an adoptive cell therapy regimen to tackle metastatic melanoma.

The drug was in fact licensed from NCI and is being tested in several trials to treat metastatic melanoma at the institute and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute. The biotech already has ties with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, as the drug is being tested here as well.

In the new pact, the biotech’s TIL therapy will be tested using two different TIL manufacturing processes, it says, and explains that the trials will be designed by a Lion and MD Anderson joint steering committee, but will be done at MD Anderson.

Both Lion and MD Anderson will have manufacturing responsibilities for production of TILs; last year, Lion signed a new three-year manufacturing services agreement with WuXi AppTec for its therapies.

Maria Fardis, Lion Biotechnologies’ president and CEO, said: “We are excited to form this strategic alliance with MD Anderson. Together, we expect to generate data that will support the pursuit of additional pipeline indications to complement our ongoing Lion-sponsored TIL clinical programs in metastatic melanoma, head and neck and cervical cancers.

“This collaboration leverages Lion’s strong expertise in TIL therapy and our expanding TIL manufacturing capacity, with MD Anderson’s deep experience in developing novel methods for generating TIL and innovative clinical care in treating oncology patients with unmet needs.”

“This TIL-based technology is yet another tool in MD Anderson's ongoing efforts to provide new therapies for our patients,” added Dr. Amir Jazaeri, associate professor of gyn/onc and reproductive medicine at MD Anderson. “It is our hope that this area of study will further treatment options for multiple types of cancer.”

This builds on the trial pact Lion recently made with PolyBioCept AB and an extended deal with the NCI that could see its tech paired with I-O meds such as checkpoint inhibitors.

The biotech, which has a market cap of $373 million, was up nearly 1% early this morning. At the end of last year, as per its financials, the company had $166.5 million in the bank, and last summer closed a private $100 million funding round.