Targovax nabs Roche veteran as CSO

Oslo, Norway
Oslo, Norway (Helge Høifødt/CC BY-SA 4.0)

European cancer vaccine biotech Targovax has hired a former Roche and Molecular Partners exec as its new chief scientific officer.

Victor Levitsky, M.D., Ph.D., comes on board to “play a leading role in driving research strategy and pipeline expansions, particularly the scientific and mechanistic aspects of early clinical work,” the biotech said in a statement.  

He comes after spending five years as vice president and head of oncology research at Molecular Partners as well as a near four-year tenure at Roche as a senior principal scientist and tumor immunology leader.

Levitsky spent the first 20 years of his career as an academic research scientist, including associate professor positions at both the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

He will now gear up to push on with Targovax’s adenovírus-based cancer therapies, which center on ONCOS-102, an early-stage med set up to directly kill cancer cells and trigger an innate immune response.

At the start of the year, Targovax shared data from a phase 1/2 trial that administered ONCOS-102 in mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer.

The response rate was lower in the ONCOS-102 arm than in the control cohort, but Targovax saw positives elsewhere, leading it to outline plans to pair the drug with a checkpoint inhibitor.

That trial could show whether ONCOS-102 can improve T-cell infiltration and, in doing so, make checkpoint inhibitors more broadly efficacious. The Norwegian biotech in March said it had in fact finished off enrollment in such a study with Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda, with the focus on advanced melanoma.

Just a week back, it also inked a pact with Valo Therapeutics to evaluate its PeptiCRAd tech as a tool to coat ONCOS oncolytic adenoviruses with Targovax’s TG mutant RAS peptides. 

In an update in March, it said it was not being majorly hit by COVID-19 in terms of its trials, adding: “Targovax’s main focus is to secure ONCOS-102 supply to patients in the ongoing trials. There are sufficient ONCOS-102 vials for all patients, and the team works to ensure shipments to relevant sites.”