Preclinical data snags GlaxoSmithKline's attention in $335M cancer immunotherapy deal

Preclinical research into cancer immunotherapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has caught the attention of global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). This has resulted in the signing of a research collaboration and licensing agreement that could be worth $335 million in upfront, milestone and royalty payments.

The deal is based on MD Anderson's preclinical research around a protein called OX40. Activating this protein boosts the immune system's ability to target cancer cells and blocks the cancer's attempt to quash the body's natural immune response. The team has spent years screening and modifying antibodies that mimic OX40's natural ligand, OX40L, and act to "switch on" the protein. The deal grants GlaxoSmithKline exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize these antibodies, and scientists at MD Anderson, at its new Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS), will help out with the preclinical research.

"We're excited about this opportunity with GSK to improve cancer treatment," says Giulio Draetta, IACS director. "The IACS is a drug development engine with industry-seasoned scientists embedded in a comprehensive cancer center, and as such is ideally suited for this type of collaboration."

The agreement validates MD Anderson's translational medicine approach, but the development is still at a very early stage and could be many years from the clinic. Translational medicine (translating preclinical research into clinical products) is key for pharmaceutical companies, especially as the patent cliff approaches, costs of drug development rise and companies look for new products to add to their R&D pipelines.

- read the press release