Imugene acquires rights to new oncolytic virus technology

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Australian immuno-oncology company Imugene (ASX:IMU) has boosted its investigational portfolio through the acquisition of local counterpart Vaxinia with global rights to a new oncolytic virus technology.

The new technology, known as CF33 and developed by Professor Yuman Fong at the US-based City of Hope research centre, is a chimeric vaccinia poxvirus or oncolytic virus (OV). It is designed to selectively kill tumour cells, while activating the immune system against cancer cells, with the potential to improve clinical response and survival.  

“We are delighted to be able to licence such a promising next generation oncolytic virus in a competitive market place where big pharma companies are actively seeking OV technologies," said Imugene CEO Leslie Chong. "CF33 comes with robust intellectual property and long patent life, compelling pre-clinical efficacy and safety, and is anticipated to enter a Phase 1 clinical trial in 2020.”

The company has also acquired 100 per cent of Vaxinia, whose major shareholders include Imugene executive chairman, Paul Hopper, and CF33 inventor Professor Fong.

The transaction includes an up-front cash payment of $462,500 and the issue of Imugene shares valued at $1.619 million. It also includes further payments in equity related to the achievement of specified milestones. The completion date for the transaction is expected to be in early September 2019.

According to Ms Fong, “...the opportunity to separately engage with members of the ex-Viralytics team through Vaxinia was cogent for Imugene, and brings to Imugene senior executives with direct involvement in two of the largest OV transactions in biotech history being Amgen’s acquisition of Biovex for USD$950 million and Merck’s acquisition of Viralytics for A$502 million.”

The company said a phase 1 clinical trial in 30 patients with advanced solid tumours is expected to commence in 2020 across a number of US cancer centres.

Imugene has agreed to pay City of Hope license fees comprising an upfront, annual maintenance fees that are creditable against future royalty payments, performance-based consideration linked to the achievement of certain value-inflection development milestones and commercial outcomes, as well as net sales-based royalty payments, and sublicensing fees.

The company said all upfront cash payments under the agreement will be funded through Imugene’s existing cash reserves.