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Netscientific portfolio company in cancer clinical trial with US drugs giant Merck & Co unit

The collaboration will see PDS Biotechnology Corp and a subsidiary of Merck & Co Inc embark on a new clinical trial collaboration for metastatic head and neck cancer

Cancer highlighted
The trial will focus on the safety and the efficacy of the combination treatment in patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer

Transatlantic IP commercialisation group NetScientific PLC (LON:NSCI) said its portfolio company PDS Biotechnology Corp and a subsidiary of Merck & Co Inc (NYSE: MRK), MSD are embarking on a new clinical trial collaboration for metastatic head and neck cancer.

The collaboration will see the two companies evaluating in a Phase II clinical trial the combination of its Versamune-based PDS0101 immunotherapy treatment with MSD's anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab).

WATCH: NetScientific 'very pleased' to partner up with Merck for head and neck cancer trial

The trial will focus on the safety and the efficacy of the combination treatment in patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer and high-risk human papillomavirus-16 (HPV16) infection after failure with platinum-based chemotherapy.

Versamune is a synthetic T-cell activating nanoparticle platform that has shown the ability to induce the immunological stimuli locally within the lymph nodes to recruit the powerful tumour-attacking immune cells called T-cells, and to enhance both the proliferation and potency of the trained T-cells.

It has also been demonstrated to significantly reduce the population of immune suppressive cells within the tumours in preclinical models.

PDS0101 is a combination of Versamune with harmless multi-epitope peptides derived from cancer-causing proteins of the HPV virus which are recognised by the immune system. 

READ: Netscientific granted exclusive patent in Europe for liver cancer diagnostic

PDS Biotechnology plans to evaluate PDS0101 in multiple HPV-advanced cancer and HPV pre-cancer Phase IIb clinical trials.

Collaboration validates confidence in Versamune platform's potential

NetScientific's chief executive officer, Francois Martelet said: "We believe this exciting collaboration between PDS and Merck & Co Inc validates our confidence in the Versamune platform's potential to deliver superior outcomes to cancer patients. 

"Following on from this successful agreement we look forward to commencing further clinical trials with additional commercial partners."

Details of the collaboration were not disclosed.

In May this year, NetScientific raised up to £9.9mln as a number of its portfolio start-ups race closer towards commercialisation.

Netscientific in-depth

The firm commercialises intellectual property developing early and mid-stage healthcare businesses focused on diagnostics and digital health.

The big players in its portfolio are Wanda, Vortex Biosciences, Glycotest and ProAxsis.


A milestone for Vortex was the commercial launch of its VTX1 Liquid Biopsy System.

The tech offers a breakthrough in early cancer detection in that it is able to collect circulating tumour cells (CTC) from the bloodstream that provide the tell-tale sign of the killer disease.

François Martelet, NetScientific's chief executive and chairman of Vortex said: "We believe that CTC technology will increasingly feature in ground-breaking work to enhance our understanding of cancer."

This belief has been backed up by recent research papers. One lauds its use to capture CTCs in a preliminary step to performing a single-CTC Western blot test by researchers at three US universities.


ProAxsis is a medical diagnostics company based in Northern Ireland, developing a range of products for the capture, detection and measurement of active protease biomarkers of diseases.

The rapid and easy-to-use tests deploy smart molecules which trap an active protease within a complex biological sample and enable a visual readout of its presence.


Glycotest is a US-based liver diagnostics company seeking to commercialise new and unique blood tests for life-threatening liver cancers and fibrosis-cirrhosis with exclusive worldwide rights to more than 50 patent-protected serum protein biomarkers.


Wanda is a San Francisco-based digital health company, which has developed a way to digitally monitor people with congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions, so that specialists can monitor risk and lower re-admissions.

The latter is significant because in the US the system means hospitals have to pay when patents are discharged then re-admitted.

PDS Biotechnology

This is a clinical-stage firm developing drugs that help the body’s immune system fight cancer and infectious diseases. These next-generation treatments are simpler, safer and more effective than the current immuno-therapies, PDS reckons.

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