Immuno-Oncology Resource Center

Immuno-Oncology Resource Center

October 31, 2019
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MD Anderson, Ziopharm renew R&D agreement to include T-cell receptor-based therapies

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The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has announced a new research and development agreement with partner Ziopharm Oncology for the development of neoantigen-specific T-cell receptors, a cell-based therapy used to treat various forms of cancer.

The deal involves Ziopharm’s Sleeping Beauty immunotherapy platform, which uses non-viral gene transfer to express and evaluate specific TCRs in T cells that can be potentially applied as cancer therapy.

"Cell-based immunotherapies have emerged as a powerful new option for treating patients with hematological cancers, but we have not yet had the same success for patients with solid tumors," Ferran Prat, PhD, JD, senior vice president for research administration and industry ventures at MD Anderson, said in a press release. "We are pleased to be working with Ziopharm to advance a new generation of cell therapies, and we are hopeful they can one day be effective in treating a broader group of our patients."

Ziopharm will provide $20 million in research funding to MD Anderson for work on the TCR T-cell therapy program through 2023 and will also include milestone payments for clinical developments and worldwide regulatory approvals. MD Anderson will receive royalties on net sales for achieving certain clinical development milestones. The cancer center’s guidelines require an institutional conflict of interest management and motoring plan be put in place to manage the research relationship with Ziopharm, according to MD Anderson.

A previous agreement between MD Anderson and Ziopharm was struck in 2015 and included research related to CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies for the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma. Ziopharm said it has approximately $20 million in prefunded research and development at MD Anderson under the previous agreement and that funding can be used for both CAR and TCR T-cell programs.

"We are delighted to deepen our relationship with MD Anderson, which provides treatment to a large and diverse population of cancer patients with solid tumors," Laurence Cooper, MD, PhD, CEO of Ziopharm, said in the release. "This new agreement is a launch point to expand our TCR library and execute two new clinical trials; a trial for utilizing TCRs from the library targeting hotspot mutations in KRAS, TP53 and EGFR, and a second trial for personalized TCRs targeting patient-specific neoantigens."