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