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Imugene cashes up ahead of hotly anticipated cancer treatment trials

Imugene Limited has further underscored investor confidence in its HER-Vaxx product with about A$756,000 in new government funding as trials for the cancer therapy approach.
Imugene cashes up ahead of hotly anticipated cancer treatment trials

Imugene Limited (ASX:IMU) has further underscored investor confidence in its HER-Vaxx product with about A$756,000 in new government funding as trials for the cancer therapy approach.

The tax refund comes as part of the Australian government’s research and development incentive program, which is aimed at converting innovative research into tangible, market-ready outcomes.

These funds complement Imugene’s $3 million capital raising announced in September and will contribute to the progression of HER-Vaxx, which is due to enter additional human Phase Ib/II gastric cancer clinical trials in 2016.

Imugene chief operating officer Leslie Chong commented:

“This is valuable non-dilutive capital for Imugene. If we succeed in commercialising HER-Vaxx, it will mean a potential Australian blockbuster drug and a better treatment for people who suffer HER2-positive gastric, breast and other cancers.”

Trials of Imugene HER-Vaxx therapy for gastric cancer are expected to demonstrate the medical and commercial viability of the company’s strategy as investors contemplate a multi-decade rollout of patenting and royalties related to a strong intellectual property portfolio.

Imugene IP is exclusive until 2030 and granted in all major jurisdictions. The company, however, is now aiming for an extension of these rights until 2036.

The macro context for this marketing scheme is underpinned by the prevalence and high death rate of gastric cancer, particularly in Japan, Korea and China.


Hot field

The use of immunotherapy to develop vaccines against gastric and breast cancers is considered the hottest area of oncology today thanks to the breakthrough approval last year of the first cancer cell-killing drug for blockading immune checkpoints.

Immune checkpoints are molecules within the immune system which have emerged as increasingly researched targets for treating cancer.

HER-Vaxx trials will explore Imugene’s vaccine on breast cancer by targeting HER-2 receptors on cancer cells. This is a clinically and commercially validated cancer target. The killing of HER-2 receptors results in the host cancer cells stopping growth and dying.

The trial work could improve Imugene’s chances of acquiring orphan drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as steering development of follow-up clinical candidates using HER-Vaxx technology.


Sharpening profile

In addition to the $3 million share placement last month, the latest R&D refund and the imminent HER-Vaxx trialling, Imugene has bolstered its investment case with the recent appointment of Chong in the role of chief operating officer.

An immune-oncology specialist, Chong served previously as senior clinical program lead at Genetech Inc in the U.S., which is widely regarded as one of the world’s most successful biotech companies with a significant oncology franchise including the best-selling breast cancer drug, Herceptin.

Her deep immuno-oncology experience and industry networks are expected to be invaluable as HER-Vaxx development milestones come into focus.


Analysis

The latest investment has continued to demonstrate the attractiveness of Imugene’s product pipeline, which includes a trial-ready drug targeting the same receptor as the A$6.4 billion breast cancer drug, Herceptin.

This investor enthusiasm also indicates that the upcoming gastric cancer human clinical trials for HER-Vaxx represent a significant share price catalyst next year for this lightly valued $16 million-capped stock.

Imugene's validated HER-2 target and a world-class drug development team in Dr Axel Hoos and Professor Ursula Weidermann provide investors with a credentialed pure-play listed immuno-oncology stock – once the preserve of “big pharma”.

Beyond its HER-Vaxx product holdings, Imugene also owns a drug delivery platform, Linguet, which uses its proprietary technology to improve the efficacy and safety of a diverse number of existing prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Further product diversification can be found in Imugene’s development of a vitamin D supplement tablet, which melts in the mouth, better known as a “meltlet”. The technology is available for outlicensing to interested parties.


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Imugene Ltd Timeline

Newswire
September 07 2015

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