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Sosei Heptares receives $15m for cancer therapy milestone

By Mike Scialom

Sosei Heptares' AZD4635 is now moving into Phase II of clinical trials
Sosei Heptares' AZD4635 is now moving into Phase II of clinical trials

Sosei Heptares has reached a clinical development milestone with its partnered next generation immuno-oncology candidate AZD4635, triggering a US$15 million payment from AstraZeneca.

The success of AZD4635 is such that its therapeutic potential is now being explored in multiple solid tumours. As a result of this, AstraZeneca is moving the trial towards Phase II, thereby triggering the milestone payment to Sosei Heptares, which officially opened its Granta Park facility last year.

Headline data from the Phase I study is planned to be presented at a scientific congress in 2019.

AZD4635 is a potent and selective, orally available, small molecule adenosine 2A receptor antagonist discovered by Sosei Heptares and exclusively licensed to AstraZeneca globally in 2015. The candidate has advanced through a Phase I clinical program as a single agent and in combination with AstraZeneca’s anti-PD-L1 antibody durvalumab (IMFINZI) in patients with solid tumours.

The clinical study to date has established the maximum-tolerated dose of AZD4635 as a single agent and in combination with durvalumab.

Tumour cells have evolved mechanisms to evade the immune system, including through the production of a natural anti-inflammatory molecule called adenosine. By stimulating A2A receptors, adenosine prevents T-cells within the immune system from being activated and reduces their ability to destroy cancer cells. Blocking A2A receptors can therefore promote the anti-cancer response of T-cells within the tumour microenvironment.

Malcolm Weir, executive VP and chief R&D officer at Sosei Group, is based at Granta Park
Malcolm Weir, executive VP and chief R&D officer at Sosei Group, is based at Granta Park

In preclinical studies, AZD4635 has been shown to be effective in reversing adenosine-mediated T-cell suppression and enhancing anti-tumour immunity. Blockade of A2A signalling with AZD4635 was found to reduce tumour growth when used alone and in combination with anti-PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors (presented at the 2017 American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting).

At AstraZeneca, we are exploring next generation immuno-oncology approaches by seeking to develop novel combinations that overcome key immunosuppressive mechanisms,” said Susan Galbraith, senior vice president and head of the oncology, Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit at AstraZeneca, “and thereby expand the potential for anti-tumour activity of immune checkpoint inhibition.

“It is increasingly recognised that the adenosine pathway is critical in tumour immunosuppression and AZD4635 complements our portfolio in this area.”

Dr Malcolm Weir, executive VP and chief R&D officer at Sosei Group, said: “Adenosine production in the tumour microenvironment is becoming well-recognised as a key survival mechanism employed by tumour cells to evade immune detection and destruction.

“Our A2A antagonist AZD4635, which aims to block this mechanism and make tumour cells vulnerable again to the immune system, has made very encouraging and rapid progress in partnership with AstraZeneca, a world leader in immuno-oncology. We believe this is a very exciting candidate and look forward to results from these initial clinical studies in due course.”

The company expects to receive the $15million payment by the end of the first quarter on March 31.


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