Pharma Focus Asia

Phio Pharmaceuticals and AgonOx, Inc. Announce Collaboration on Clinical Development of Novel T Cell-based Cancer Immunotherapies

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Phio Pharmaceuticals Corp., a biotechnology company developing the next generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics based on its proprietary self-delivering RNAi therapeutic platform,  announced it has entered into a clinical development collaboration with AgonOx, Inc. to develop novel T cell-based cancer immunotherapies using Phio's lead INTASYL based product candidate PH-762 and AgonOx's "double positive" (DP) tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) technology. The companies have shown that the combination of their respective technologies can result in enhanced TIL therapeutics, and based on these data, the collaboration will focus on conducting a clinical study for PH-762 treated DP TILs. The study is expected to start enrolling patients later this year.

AgonOx in collaboration with the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of the Providence Cancer Institute, developed a method for the identification, isolation and expansion of tumor-specific CD8 T cells from cancer patients. AgonOx has also shown that "double positive" (DP) CD8 T cells isolated from human solid tumors have increased tumor killing activity when compared to CD8 TIL that were not enriched prior to expansion. Preclinical data presented at SITC 2020 by AgonOx in collaboration with Phio show that treating the DP CD8 TIL with Phio's PH-762, increases the tumor killing activity of the CD8 DP TIL even further (two-fold increase). As a result, the use of PH-762 treated DP CD8 TIL is expected to enhance therapeutic responses in cancer patients.

Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, AgonOx will receive financial support for the clinical trial from Phio and Phio is entitled to certain future development milestones and sales related royalty payments from AgonOx's DP TIL technology.

"Autologous T cell therapies hold a lot of promise, however, there is still a lot of research needed to be done to unlock its full therapeutic potential, including ways to improve upon the first generation of TIL products, and ways to use TIL therapy in more types of cancer," said Dr. Gerrit Dispersyn, President and CEO of Phio Pharmaceuticals. "By joining forces with AgonOx, we believe our collaboration can fulfil these unmet needs, without the need for complex and costly technologies, such as genetic engineering."

"Our collaboration with Phio is based on data showing that PH-762 increases the activity of our CD8 DP TIL technology, therefore we believe this combination should increase the therapeutic efficacy of this first-in-man study," stated by Dr. Andrew Weinberg, President/CSO of AgonOx, Inc. and Full Member at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute.

Dr. James Cardia, VP of Business Operations of Phio Pharmaceuticals, commented: "Both the clinical community and the investment community are embracing the broad potential of cell-based immunotherapy, and TIL therapy in specific, based on recent clinical and corporate development activities in this field. Our data show the important role that INTASYL based products can play in improving adoptive cell therapy, and we look forward to working with AgonOx to bring better cell therapies to patients."

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