New cancer collaboration for Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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The Melbourne-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has signed a new international research collaboration with Swiss biotech company TargImmune focussed on progressing development of a cutting-edge cancer immunotherapy platform.

As part of the collaboration, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cancer researcher Professor Tony Burgess will use TargImmune’s novel drug platform for pre-clinical research at WEHI.

TargImmune Therapeutics AG was established in March 2016.

According to TargImmune CEO, Dr Esteban Pombo-Villar, the company’s technology platform involves a personalised approach to cancer immunotherapy in which a non-viral vector targets cancer cells to deliver a dual effect - cancer cell death and an immune response against the cancer.

The targeting technology is known as CTPIC ('Cancer Targeted delivery of pIC'). 

“Targeted drugs that increase the immune system’s defense, specifically against cancers, are at the forefront of cancer research and offer great potential for many clinical applications. TargImmune’s platform could change the way we treat a range of cancers,” said Mr Pombo-Villar.

Professor Alexander Levitzki – a recipient of the Wolf Prize in Medicine working at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – collaborated with colleagues to invent the technology platform which is now used by TargImmune to develop novel anti-cancer drugs.

The biotech company was recently awarded a grant of almost $US400,000 from the Swiss Commission of Technology and Innovation to support the research.

“I’m honoured to be working with such an esteemed group of scientists. Cancer has no bounds and sharing knowledge across borders will allow us to make significant advancements in the treatment of this insidious disease,” said Professor Tony Burgess from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Professor Burgess is one of the world’s pre-eminent researchers in colorectal cancer. His research has focused on the effects of gene mutations and the receptors on cancer cells that drive bowel cancer.

“I strongly believe that major improvements in cancer therapy will come from targeted drug treatment platforms, which combine a range of different therapies and medications. We all have a piece of the puzzle and by coming together in this TargImmune collaboration we can see how all the pieces fit together,” said Professor Burgess.

Swiss-based TargImmune has established several close links with Australia. It recently announced a joint venture with ASX-listed pharmaceutical company Race Oncology.

“TargImmune is exploring the use of Race Oncology’s broad-spectrum chemotherapy drug, Bisantrene, in our cancer treatment platform. The reduced cardiotoxicity of Bisantrene makes it an ideal chemotherapy agent to use in conjunction with our CTPIC platform,” said Dr Pombo-Villar. 

TargImmune has recently engaged Dr Linda Friedland to represent the company with its Australian operations.