Pharma Focus Asia

PolyU - Axis Therapeutics Joint Center for Immunotherapy Launched to Develop Innovative Cancer Treatments

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) will join forces with Axis Therapeutics, a newly established joint venture by two global biopharmaceutical companies - Athenex, Inc. and Xiangxue Pharmaceutical, to foster the research and development of translational medicine by setting up a Joint Center for Immunotherapy. The Center is set to conduct collaborative research on cancer immunotherapy, with an aim to develop new cancer treatments.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony for setting up the PolyU-Axis Therapeutics Joint Center for Immunotherapy was held today (18 July 2018). The MoU was signed by Ir Professor Ping-kong Alexander WAI, Vice President (Research Development) of PolyU; Dr Johnson LAU, Chairman and CEO of Athenex, Inc.; and Mr YongHui WANG, Chairman and CEO of Xiangxue Pharmaceutical and CEO of Xiangxue Life Sciences. The ceremony was witnessed by Mr Tze-ching CHAN, Council Chairman of PolyU; Professor Timothy W. TONG, President of PolyU; Mr ZHANG Zong Ming, Deputy Inspector, Department of Educational, Scientific and Technological Affairs, Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.; Dr ZENG Lu, Director of Guangdong Academy of Science and Technology Service; as well as a number of industry leaders.

Addressing at the MoU signing ceremony, Mr Tze-ching CHAN said this collaboration would add on PolyU's continuous efforts and achievements in biotechnology development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). PolyU is committed in the innovation and technology development of translational medicine, as well as transferring pioneering research to real-life applications for the benefits of mankind. Over the years, the University has been engaging in the first three new drugs developed in Hong Kong which have succeeded in getting Investigational New Drug (IND) application approval of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that harnesses the body's immune system to combat tumors. Researchers have struggled for decades to make it work and results have raised hope that immunotherapy will give new options for some types of cancer treatments. Cancer immunotherapy was chosen as "Breakthrough of the Year for 2013" in Science magazine.

In cancer treatment, T-cell receptor-engineered T cells (TCR-T) and Chimeric Antigen Receptor-engineered T-cells (CAR-T) are the cancer immunotherapy technologies. Since T-cells possess the ability to target specific internal tumor antigens, they play an essential role in cell-mediated immunity by defending human bodies against foreign pathogens or autologous tumor cells. Based on the novel approach on high-affinity TCR developed by Xiangxue Life Sciences, the Center will focus on the research and development, as well as commercialization, of TCR-T and CAR-T based cancer immunotherapy.

Professor Ping-kong Alexander WAI remarked, "Partnerships between academia and industry have been very fruitful, leading to significant innovations in the form of medicines and better treatments. In this collaboration, PolyU will provide our full support for the research on novel technologies and genetics models to develop cancer immunotherapy technologies based on TCR-T and CAR-T."

Dr Johnson LAU said the companies are particularly excited about the potential synergies created by the collaboration. "The collaboration on cancer immunotherapy technology will further complement and enhance our innovation in oncology. We look forward to working closely with PolyU in bringing this novel immunotherapy technology to patients in Hong Kong and across the globe."

Mr YongHui WANG said, "We are expecting to explore a new and promising immunotherapy technology in the global scene. The new generation TCR-T, named HATac, is a breakthrough technology. The development of this technology in collaboration with our new partners holds great promise for the treatment of solid tumors. PolyU has demonstrated leadership in academia and proven to be at the forefront of collaboration with the industry to translate biotechnology research and development initiatives into products that can be developed in a commercial scale."

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