Eli Lilly collaborates with ImaginAb on T cell cancer research

After signing on for a full lineup of combination drug studies with leading checkpoint inhibitors from Merck ($MRK), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Eli Lilly ($LLY) is headed to the preclinical drawing board with a new collaboration to use ImaginAb's immune imaging agent IAB22M2C to study new T cell therapies for fighting cancer.

Investigators are following up on a growing body of research into the role that CD8-positive T-cells, AKA cytotoxic T cells, play in association with anti-PD-1 checkpoint therapies in melanoma. IAB22M2C is a PET-based imaging agent that flags CD8-positive T cells, helping capture a snapshot of a patient's immune response that can be used for patient selection and an improved understanding of the potential impact of immuno-oncology drugs.

ImaginAb, which is based is the Los Angeles area, engineers antibody fragments it calls "minibodies" to map an individual's immune response. A wide variety of biopharma companies have been beavering away at both spurring an immune response as well as dismantling biologic hurdles that thwart a T cell attack on cancer cells. CD8-positive T cells are closely studied players in this field.  

The companies did not reveal any of the terms of their deal.

"Selecting the proper patients for immunotherapy continues to be a major challenge for the new wave of cancer therapies coming to market," said Dr. Roger Crystal, chief business officer for ImaginAb. "Same-day CD8 imaging holds tremendous potential in helping to guide treatment for cancer immunotherapies, and we look forward to pioneering this approach with Lilly."

- here's the release