Merck to Lead Anti-CD27 Antibody into Clinical Testing as Immunotherapy for Cancer

Merck to Lead Anti-CD27 Antibody into Clinical Testing as Immunotherapy for Cancer

Merck has selected an anti-CD27 antibody, an immunotherapy developed by an Aduro Biotech subsidiary, to advance into clinical testing based on its potential to activate a strong anti-cancer immune response.

“Pre-clinical studies have shown that an anti-CD27 agonist can induce a T cell-mediated anti-cancer immune response, and in combination with PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors complete tumor eradication can be achieved,” Hans van Eenennaam, PhD, chief operational officer of Aduro Biotech Europe, said in a press release.

Merck entered a license agreement with BioNovion in 2014 for the development and commercialization of CD27 antibody agonists, giving BioNovion an upfront payment of $15 million. Aduro Biotech acquired BioNovion the next year and established it as a subsidiary, under the name Aduro Biotech Europe.

The CD27 antibody was licensed by Merck to advance part of its immunotherapy development program through Aduro’s B-select monoclonal antibody technology.

That technology includes a proprietary ultra-selective functional screening process that identifies antibodies with binding properties against a wide portfolio of targets that can modulate the innate and adaptive aspects of the immune system.

“Both companies recognized the significant potential of targeting CD27 as a new and distinct mechanism in cancer immunotherapy, especially in the context of PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors, and were strongly committed to accelerate a quality candidate into the clinic,” said Andrea van Elsas, hief scientific officer of Aduro Biotech Europe.

Aduro and Merck expect to file an investigational new drug (IND) application for the anti-CD27 antibody in 2017.

Earlier this year, Aduro Biotech announced a partnership with cancer immunologists and infectious disease specialists at the University of California at Berkeley to develop new cancer immunotherapies and advance vaccine research.