The University of Oxford’s commercialization company, Isis Innovation, together with the Ludwig Cancer Research have just announced the official launch of a new company, iOx Therapeutics, which will focus on developing a new type of immunotherapy against cancer, originally discovered through a partnership between Ludwig and Professor Vincenzo Cerundulo, the director of the MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford’s Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Professor Cerundolo formed a team of researchers, and through close collaboration with Professor Gurdyal Besra and Dr. Liam Cox of the University of Birmingham and Professor Richard Schmidt of the University of Konstanz, and with the support of Ludwig, the multiple synthetic lipid compounds that are currently the subject of iOx’s research and development efforts were discovered. These compounds were found to have the ability to activate iNKT cells, which scientists are suggesting play a crucial role in anti-cancer immune responses.
“Preclinical studies of our iNKT-activating compounds have been extremely promising,” said Professor Cerundolo. “We’ve been able to show that these molecules can halt the progression of tumours in animal models. I am very excited to see them moving toward the clinic, and gratified that our research could prove to be of benefit to cancer patients.”
“The new immune checkpoint inhibitors recently approved by regulatory agencies, such as anti-PD-1 antibodies, sabotage the strategies used by tumour cells to suppress the immune system and so induce potent anti-tumour immune responses in many patients,” said Dr. Jonathan Skipper, Ludwig’s executive director of technology development. “There is good reason to expect that iOX’s iNKT agonists could significantly improve these responses, and we look forward to seeing the results of their clinical evaluation.”
iOX recently disclosed plans for its first clinical trial in partnership with the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency. The developing study will be headed by Professor Mark Middleton, director of the Oxford Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Isis Innovation Head of Technology Transfer, Life Sciences Dr. Adam Stoten said, “The field of cancer immunotherapy is moving forward with unprecedented momentum and we’re delighted to support Professor Cerundolo and his team in their goal of finding new and better cancer treatments.”
Professor Cerundolo’s research has also received valuable funding from the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and the Wellcome Trust.