Immunicum: Foundation & Creation
Immunicum (IMMU.ST) is a publicly-traded Swedish biopharmaceutical company developing immuno-oncology therapies against a range of solid tumors. Founded in 2002 as a spin-out from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, the company’s approach is rooted in the field of immunology, specifically the process of how the body rejects a transplanted organ and ways to inhibit this rejection process. During this time, the researchers realized that this idea could also be translated to cancer treatments by “teaching” the body to repel its own cells that have transformed into a tumor. At the time, these ideas formed the basis of what we now routinely term ‘immuno-oncology’. The field received worldwide recognition in 2018 when two pioneers were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. One of the three original founders of Immunicum, Dr. Alex Karlsson-Parra, has remained at Immunicum since its inception and is supporting the development process of the company’s technology in the role of Chief Scientific Officer.
Novel Approach to Immuno-Oncology
Immunicum’s main product ilixadencel is an immune primer that strengthens the patient’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Made up of allogeneic, inflammatory dendritic cells, ilixadencel has four key expected advantages:
1. Intratumorally injected ilixadencel uniquely covers all major aspects of tumor specific immune priming:
» recruitment of immune cells including NK cells and dendritic cells into the tumor,
» induction of local tumor cell death leading to increased release of tumor-specific antigens and
» maturation of antigen-loaded dendritic cells for subsequent migration to tumor-draining lymph nodes where the dendritic cells activate/prime tumor-specific T cells;
2. ilixadencel is applicable for injectable solid tumors;
3. off-the-shelf cell-based therapies are applicable to all patients and batches can be stockpiled and thereby be available for immediate use; and
4. the concept uses the patient’s own tumor as the antigen source in vivo, which aims to ensure that the full set of immunogenic neoantigens are used for activation of a tumorspecific immune response.
Given the limited efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors as monotherapy, and the incremental efficacy targeted therapies are assumed to add based on their growth inhibiting mechanism, Immunicum anticipates immunotherapy combinations to capture a significant part of the market for difficult-totreat indications. Ilixadencel may therefore serve as an optimal treatment combination to a number of targeted therapies and immunotherapies based on its safety and priming position in the cancer immunity cycle complementary to these therapies.
Ilixadencel in Practice and Patients
Ilixadencel has been evaluated in both preclinical and clinical-stage studies and has to-date shown positive safety and tolerability in patients. Currently ilixadencel is being evaluated in kidney cancer (RCC), liver cancer (HCC), gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), head and neck cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and gastric cancer.
Immunicum’s most advanced clinical trial, MERECA, is an international, randomized, controlled and open Phase II study that is designed to investigate the clinical efficacy of ilixadencel in combination with a well-established tyrosine kinase inhibitor, sunitinib, in newly diagnosed metastatic renal cell cancer patients. Top-line results of the study are expected in the third quarter of 2019.
Immunicum’s latest clinical trial, ILIAD, enrolled its first patient in January 2019 and is a multiindication, open-label, randomized, Phase Ib/II trial that evaluates the safety and efficacy of ilixadencel in combination with checkpoint inhibitors in patients with HNSCC, NSCLC and GA in the US. Immunicum also recently entered into a collaboration and supply agreement with Merck KGaA and Pfizer to evaluate ilixadencel in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor, Bavencio® (avelumab) in patients with HNSCC and GA during the Phase II part of the ILIAD study.
Combination Therapies for Cancer Treatment
The future of cancer treatment is expected to lie within combination therapies, meaning that different treatment regimens will be used in combination to improve the efficacy of cancer treatments. Ilixadencel is aimed to be part of those combinations. Since Immunicum’s lead product ilixadencel functions by activating the immune system to kill the cancer, rather than eliminating the tumor’s immunosuppression (as most of the immune therapies do), Immunicum believes ilixadencel to be ideally positioned to become a backbone of future combination therapies.
Interested in Learning More?
Immunicum’s CEO, Carlos de Sousa, will present the company at the 2nd Annual LSX Nordic Congress on Thursday, August 29th at 14.15.
Check out all of the latest news about the LSX Nordic Congress here.