Agenus ,an immunotherapy company developing innovative treatments for cancer, has announced that it has acquired privately-held PhosImmune Inc., a company that has discovered an entirely new portfolio of cancer neoantigens. The acquisition provides Agenus the ability to accelerate the development of new cancer vaccines and other single agent immuno-oncology approaches, as well as combination therapies.
“PhosImmune’s groundbreaking neoantigen assets significantly expand Agenus’ current efforts, and present exciting near-term opportunities for new products and partnerships,” said Dr. Garo H. Armen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Agenus. “This acquisition expands our immuno-oncology pipeline and strengthens our neoantigen capabilities to enable the development of best-in-class cancer vaccines and other novel therapies.”
PhosImmune’s neoantigens have unique advantages in cancer immunotherapy. The company’s phosphopeptide tumor targets (PTTs) are fragments of proteins expressed in cancer cells. These fragments are phosphorylated due to signal dysregulation involved in the development of cancers and, as a result, appear as foreign to the immune system. The approach is synergistic with Agenus’ AutoSynVax™ vaccine program for targeting patient-specific tumor neoantigens. PTTs can expand AutoSynVax and other immunotherapeutic approaches to include patients with lower levels of mutations that may not have enough neoantigens to activate the immune system effectively. PTTs can also be shared by patients with specific cancers, providing the potential for “off-the-shelf” vaccines.
PhosImmune’s scientific founders, Donald Hunt, Ph.D. and Vic Engelhard, Ph.D., both of University of Virginia, and Mark Cobbold, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, have identified a large number of proprietary, tumor-specific PTTs. These PTTs are found on a wide variety of cancer types.
“By acquiring PhosImmune, we are accessing a capability with transformational potential for both patient-specific and off-the-shelf cancer vaccine products,” said Robert B. Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D for Agenus. “In addition, our entire portfolio will benefit from the world-class peptide analytics expertise of PhosImmune’s founders. We believe there are a number of near-term opportunities to advance potentially powerful cancer therapies into the clinic that build on and leverage the ongoing work at Agenus.”
“Agenus has deep knowledge and expertise in the immunotherapy field, and we are excited to join forces with their research and development team,” said Donald Hunt, President and Scientific Founder of PhosImmune. “We are confident that by working together we can more rapidly advance the development of immuno-oncology products and realize the potential of our extensive research into how the immune system recognizes cancers as non-self.”