AstraZeneca, Innate Pharma wrap up rollout of first wave of checkpoint inhibitor trials

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has kicked off another clinical trial of monalizumab, bringing to an end a rollout of studies it committed to when it struck its $1.3 billion (€1.1 billion) alliance with Innate Pharma (EPA:IPH). The fifth and final clinical trial in the first wave of studies is investigating the combination of monalizumab and AstraZeneca's big immuno-oncology hope durvalumab.

Innate Pharma Chief Medical Officer Pierre Dodion

Since handing over $250 million to gain access to monalizumab, AstraZeneca has moved quickly to set up a suite of studies intended to assess its effectiveness against a range of solid and hematologic tumors, either in isolation or combination with other drugs. The final component of the strategy to come on line is a 208-person open-label Phase I trial, in which AstraZeneca will look at how patients in Europe and the United States with advanced solid tumors respond to a combination of checkpoint inhibitors, namely its anti-PD-L1 antibody durvalumab and Innate Pharma's anti-NKG2A drug.

If AstraZeneca can deliver the right data, the combination could lead to it carving out a piece of the immuno-oncology market, a sector in which it has ceded a head start to Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Merck ($MRK). Data on existing the PD-1 drugs has ratcheted up expectations. "Combinations with PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors are of particular interest given the antitumor activity already reported for these agents and we are therefore excited to simultaneously target PD-L1 and NKG2A checkpoints in this trial," Innate Pharma Chief Medical Officer Pierre Dodion said in a statement.

Marseille, France-based Innate Pharma is in line to pocket more than $1 billion in milestones if its drug comes good in the myriad of areas in which AstraZeneca is exploring its potential. Data from the studies are due to start trickling in next year. For AstraZeneca, the trial combining monalizumab and durvalumab, which is enrolling more patients than the other four studies combined, is of particular interest given its high hopes for its contribution to the pairing. In arguing against accepting Pfizer's ($PFE) buyout bid, AstraZeneca tipped sales of the drug to peak at $6.5 billion.

- read the statement