Hot Biotechs pursue new therapeutic antibodies

October 29, 2015

In October I visited colleagues at two biotechnology firms in California, both pursuing innovative antibody products. I spent an afternoon with Dr. Cheng Liu, CEO of Eureka Pharma in Emeryville CA, on the east side of the San Francisco Bay. Liu’s technology is based on TCR-mimick antibodies, which possess specificity as T Cell Receptors against MHCI/peptides complexes. As a result, Eureka’s T-cell engager antibodies endow the T cells with the ability to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells by detecting the change of oncogenes inside the cells, the same way our immune native T cells accomplish their task of tumor cell surveillance.   Compared with TCR molecules, TCR-mimicking antibodies have the advantage of much higher binding affinity and specificity.  

I then traveled to Irvine CA, south of Los Angeles, to meet with Steve King, CEO of Peregrine Pharma. He discussed his company’s current studies on Bavituximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody targeting the membrane phospholipid phosphatidylserine molecules that are exposed on normal endothelial cells and on cancer cells in solid tumors. Bavituximab shows its effect by blocking PS-mediated immune suppression in the tumor microenvironment.

A big part of the therapeutic effect is Bavituximab ability to block phosphoserine and allow the immune system to kick in. If there is more antibody delivered and better anti-tumor effects, that will ramp up the immune system. In the current ph III studies they are comparing Bavi plus docetaxel with docetaxel plus placebo.  It may be that it is not a direct effect on the immune system but rather they have created a blast of phosphoserine positive microparticles that bind to the receptor and have thereby suppressing the immune response.

Both these companies are small yet dynamic and are developing products that are moving toward FDA approval.   


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