Galway pharma company signs deal to advance new cancer therapy

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The Galway based pharma company ONK Therapeutics could advance cancer treatments with a new deal which will help bring their novel therapy to the market.

ONK Therapeutics and Maynooth based biotech company Avectas has signed a collaborative deal for Avectas to licence ONK’s Natural Killer cell therapy for cancer treatment.

ONK Therapeutics is Barna based company creating novel cancer therapies by enhancing the body’s own natural defences against tumours.

Founded in 2015, ONK’s research focuses on Natural Killer cells, part of our body’s immune system that target and attack cancer cells with toxic granules.

ONK is developing novel, off the shelf, NK cell-based therapies for cancer, as well as working to genetically modify NK cells to create a platform which can be tailored for multiple cancers.

Professor Michael O’Dwyer, CSO of ONK Therapeutics, said this deal will allow them to accelerate getting their therapy to clinics by taking advantage of Avectas’ expertise in non-viral gene engineering.

Avectas’ cell engineering platform Solupore will be used to engineer the therapy the two are collaborating on.

“While early clinical data with CAR NK cells appear promising, resistance is still an issue,” Prof O’Dwyer added about the current state of development.

“Incorporation of our unique proprietary DR5 TRAIL variant into CAR-NK cells provides a powerful, complementary killing mechanism to overcome resistance, which may have applicability in a broad range of cancers.”

TRAIL is a type of protein from NK cells which contribute to killing off tumours by binding to and triggering ‘death receptors’ on the surface of cancer cells.

Michael Maguire, CEO of Avectas, commented: “We are excited to collaborate with ONK and its expert team to develop this potentially breakthrough immuno-oncology therapy”.

“Solupore was developed to address the urgent need for non-viral cell engineering solutions to support advanced therapies and so this collaboration is a natural next step for our business.”

Under this deal ONK will be responsible for bringing the therapy to Phase 1 clinical trials, and will receive upfront fees, and royalties.

Avectas will ultimately retain the worldwide commercialisation rights to the therapy, and have also acquired a minority stake in ONK.