The Swiss-Italian company Philogen has announced three different partnerships with Novartis, Celgene, and Janssen to develop new forms of immunotherapy and small molecule drugs.
Philogen develops immunocytokines, which are antibodies that are fused with proteins that modify the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. For example, this treatment can bind to tumors and activate passing immune cells, leaving the rest of the body unharmed and causing fewer side effects than regular cytokine therapies for cancer.
“Immunocytokines are currently a hot topic in the field of oncology and chronic inflammation and virtually all big pharma companies are active in this area,” a representative from Philogen told me.
Philogen’s collaborations with Novartis and Celgene involve developing new immunocytokines, whereas its agreement with Janssen involves developing small molecule treatments. The financial details and the specific target diseases of the collaborations were not disclosed.
Philogen’s technology has attracted other big companies in the past. With Boehringer Ingelheim, Philogen is running a phase I trial of an immunotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia. The company is also collaborating with Pfizer in a phase II trial of a treatment for ulcerative colitis.
“Our technology has some unique features that differentiate us from our competitors with respect to cellular targeting and the format of our immunocytokines,” the representative said. “Antibodies have been proven to be effective therapeutic molecules and 6 out of 10 of the best selling-drugs are currently antibodies.”
Philogen also has its own clinical trials in progress, including a phase III trial of one immunotherapy in patients with melanoma, and another phase III of a different immunotherapy in patients with soft-tissue sarcoma.
Immunocytokines have not yet reached the market and are under development in several companies. Merck is running a phase I trial of an immunocytokine for the treatment of solid tumors. The US company Alopexx is also testing an immunocytokine in phase II for the treatment of lymphoma.