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Geron Announces Initiation of Phase I Clinical Trial of Vaccine Candidate Targeting Telomerase by Merck

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Geron Corporation has announced that its collaborator, Merck & Co., Inc., has initiated a Phase I clinical trial of V934/V935, a non-dendritic cell based cancer vaccine candidate targeting telomerase.

The trial will assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate in patients with solid tumors, including non-small cell lung cancer and prostate carcinoma.

Merck is developing the vaccine candidate under a July 2005 Research, Development and Commercialization License Agreement with Geron that provided Merck with exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize non–dendritic cell based vaccines targeting telomerase.

“We are pleased that Merck has advanced this cancer vaccine candidate into the clinic,” said Thomas B. Okarma, Ph.D., M.D., Geron’s president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate the collaborative nature of our relationship with Merck and look forward to working with them to realize the potential of this therapy.”

Telomerase activity is essential for the indefinite replicative capacity that enables malignant cell growth. The telomerase protein is highly expressed in many cancers, but is absent or expressed only transiently at low levels in most normal cells.

Geron’s in-house cancer vaccine program (GRNVAC1) is based on autologous dendritic cell delivery of the telomerase antigen to induce a cellular immune response.

Geron is currently sponsoring a Phase II clinical trial of GRNVAC1 in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Geron is also developing an allogeneic telomerase vaccine candidate (GRNVAC2) based on dendritic cells derived from human embryonic stem cells.