Genprex Inc (NASDAQ:GNPX) shares shot higher in New York on Tuesday after the group said it has been awarded a worldwide license, allowing it to use lead candidate Oncoprex to treat cancer in combination with a range of immunotherapies.
The gene therapy firm has struck a license agreement with the renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) for an exclusive worldwide license to a portfolio of 16 patent applications and related technology (Licensed IP)
MD Anderson will receive an up-front license fee and annual maintenance fees, with the potential for milestone payments, sublicensing fees, and product royalties.
It means Genprex can now use its TUSC2 gene therapy in combination with immunotherapy drugs, including, among others, pembrolizumab - drugs titan Merck’s largest selling drug Keytruda; nivolumab - Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo; and ipilimumab - Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy.
"We are pleased to advance the intellectual property that is covered by this license agreement," Rodney Varner, Genprex’s chairman and chief executive, told investors in today's statement.
"We are excited to be developing two distinct therapeutic approaches to lung cancer utilizing the combination of our gene therapy with successful targeted therapies, such as Tagrisso, and immunotherapies, such as Keytruda, to potentially improve patient outcomes and increase the number of patients who may benefit from these important therapies."
The move comes after the group was recently awarded key FDA fast track designation for the use of Oncoprex combined with Tagrisso - marketed by AstraZeneca - to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) mutations whose tumors progressed after treatment with Tagrisso alone.
Genprex told investors then it was preparing to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to begin a clinical trial of Oncoprex in combination with pembrolizumab in non-small cell lung cancer.
Immunotherapy or immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy is now the first-line standard of care for the majority of lung cancer patients, Genprex noted.
Pre-clinical data has shown that when Oncoprex is combined with immunotherapies such as Keytruda, Oncoprex is synergistic with those drugs, meaning that the combination is more effective than either drug used on their own.
The combination of Oncoprex and Keytruda may lead to better outcomes for many lung cancer patients, it added.
Genprex shares in New York shot up over 51% to stand at US$3.50.
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