French biopharmaceutical company Cellectis and Netherlands-based biotech MabQuest, have announced they will be collaborating to develop a novel class of monoclonal antibodies that are antagonistic to a protein called PD-1. The hope is that these PD-1 antibodies will be able to counteract T-cell exhaustion – a common state in chronic infections and cancer.
According to a statement released by Cellectis, the new class of antibodies does not block the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1. The antibodies could be used in conjunction with other immunotherapy drugs – including Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo or Merck’s Keytruda – for the treatment of certain types of cancers.
Studies performed in vitro have provided evidence that the novel PD-1 antibodies are able to speed recovery of T-cells from exhaustion, when used in combination with other therapies. The company says the antibodies’ mechanism of action lends itself well to supporting the action of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors or other checkpoint inhibitors.
In addition, the antibodies could be an effective alternative treatment for those patients with tumors characterized by low levels of PD-L1. Cellectis has plans to combine the antibodies with their gene-edited UCART products, in an effort to increase their half-life and potentially boost their effectiveness.
“We are very pleased to have signed this agreement with MabQuest, with founders and lead scientists who have great expertise in the field of immunology and monoclonal antibodies,” said André Choulika, CEO of Cellectis. “This collaboration is an important building block for our gene-edited UCART product candidates and for our immunotherapy franchise. This new partnership fits perfectly into Cellectis’ strategy of expanding our focus in the cancer immunotherapy space with our CAR T-cell based approaches.”
While both Cellectis and MabQuest will conduct preclinical research on the antibodies, Cellectis will be responsible for leading the development and commercialization phases of any promising candidates. In addition, Cellectis has the option to claim exclusive worldwide rights for the new class of PD-1 antibodies.
“The collaboration agreement with Cellectis is a tremendous opportunity for MabQuest to move into clinical development with this new class of anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies,” said Dr. Giuseppe Pantaleo, President of MabQuest and Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Service of Immunology and Allergy at the Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland. “This collaboration will also boost MabQuest’s discovery program to develop additional antibody-based strategies to modulate the host immune system.