The massive expansion of AstraZeneca‘s pipeline continues, as its biological subsidiary, MedImmune buys Inovio Pharmaceuticals‘ clinical-stage cancer vaccine that targets cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). MedImmune, which makes up nearly 50% of AstraZeneca’s pipeline, may spend over $720M (€653M) to bolster its cancer-associated portfolio.

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted virus and causes several types of cancers as for example cervical cancer. US-based Inovio designed a DNA-based immunotherapy, called INO-3112, that activates killer T cells to fight cancer caused by the HPV types 16 and 18. These types are responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers. The drug combines the company’s VGX-3100, its immunotherapy targeting HPV-caused diseases, with its DNA-based immune activator encoded for IL-12.

Earlier this year, Inovio reported that INO-3112 generated antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses in 75% of patients with HPV associated head and neck cancer. These results represent the first report of antigen-specific T cell immune responses generated in cancer patients treated with a DNA immunotherapy. A good reason for MedImmune to grab the promising drug.

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The British company acquired the immunotherapy, which is currently in Phase I/II for an  upfront payment of $27.5M (€25M), as well as potential milestone payments totaling up to $700M (€635M) plus royalties. It aims at testing it in combination with selected molecules within its pipeline in HPV-driven cancers. The combination of cancer vaccines and small immuno-oncology molecules raises high hopes in the biotech field. Last week, Immunicum disclosed positive results of its cancer vaccine which almost doubled patient’s survival.

Further, MedImmune and Inovio want to jointly develop two novel DNA-based cancer vaccines. The agreement builds on the existing partnership between Inovio and MedImmune on two research and development collaborations in the infectious disease area.

In the beginning of this month, AstraZeneca deepened its collaboration with Isis Pharmaceuticals to develop antisense therapys. Moreover, in the last 5 days, three other deals followed, all expanding AstraZeneca’s oncology pipeline. First it partnered with Mirati therapeutics to fight lung cancer. One day later, it entered a second deal with Heptares Therapeutics to promote the anti-cancer response of T-cells. Today it announced Invio as its newest partner. The deals underline AstraZeneca’s strategy to build oncology as its growth platform, that it rates as “potentially transformational for the company’s future”. By 2020, AstraZeneca hopes to to bring six new cancer medicines to patients.

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