Concept buy Aquila inks immuno-oncology deal with Macrophage Pharma

Aquila BioMedical will help Macrophage Pharma identify the best immuno-oncology candidate to enter the clinic. (Aquila)

Concept Life Sciences’ recent acquisition of Aquila BioMedical has quickly produced a return—an extended contract with Macrophage Pharma to support its preclinical immuno-oncology programs.

Aquila will run a few in vitro, in vivo and ex vivo analyses to help Macrophage decide on the best candidate to enter the clinic.

U.K.-based Macrophage targets cancer with its proprietary Esterase Sensitive Motif (ESM) technology, which delivers small-molecule drugs to influence only tumor-associated macrophages so that their suppression on the body’s natural immune system could be lifted.

Recently released results from early preclinical examinations of the biotech’s lead candidate, MPL-5821, a macrophage-targeting p38 MAP kinase inhibitor, showed that it works in a highly selective manner that spares other immune cells, and that it has potential clinical implications in lung cancer. Human testing is expected to start in 2018, and Macrophage says on its website that drugs have been synthesized targeting other enzymes such as histone deacetylase, Hsp90 and IKappaB-2.

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Aquila Chief Operating Officer Clare Doris said the two companies’ previous collaboration “has established innovative and tailored biology solutions, producing high-value mechanistic data that will help progress its promising molecules to the clinic.”

The CRT Pioneer Fund-founded biotech recently raised £9 million in a series A round backed by CPF, Novo Nordisk’s early-stage investment sister Novo Seeds and Dutch venture capital firm Aglaia. Merck Ventures later joined with an equal size of investment.

“Macrophage Pharma impressed us with the initial data generated,” Hakan Goker, senior investment director at Merck Ventures, said in a statement at the time. “The differentiated, novel approach they are following in the TME offers promise for the immuno-oncology armory of clinicians to address a broad range of cancers.”

Aquila specializes in multiplex histology, analyzing immunomodulatory effects of treatments within the tumor microenvironment, and it was just bought by Concept Life Sciences for its expertise in the human immune system.