When Medicon Valley Alliance Oncology Network was founded back in September 2016 by prof. Nils Brünner, University of Copenhagen, and prof. Carl Borrebaeck, CREATE Health, Lund University, the explicit ambition was to initiate an oncology network focusing on best practice, experience and current challenges for public-private collaboration and the commercialization of oncology related R&D in the Medicon Valley region. The network should also bring people and ideas together and spur innovation. The very first speaker at this event was Eva Dahlén, Senior Director Business Development, Alligator Bioscience AB. Consequently, it is with great pleasure that we reach out to prof. Brünner following recently published news about the partnership with his own company, Danish, Scandion Oncology, and Swedish, Alligator Bioscience.
Q1) Why have the two companies, Alligator Bioscience and Scandion Oncology decided to partner up?
Scandion Oncology has a strong focus on anti-cancer drug resistance and Alligator Biosciences are experts in immuno-oncology (IO). In the last decade, there has been breakthrough of IO treatment of cancer patients and IO drugs have proven very effective in subsets of cancer patients. However, recent data from large clinical trials have shown that the combination of IO drugs and standard chemotherapy results in additive anti-tumor effects and more durable remissions in cancer patients. Yet, many cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy and consequently, no additive effects will be expected in these patients. This is the reason why Scandion Oncology and Alligator Biosciences have decided to team up in a preclinical research collaboration. The aim is to apply the competencies of Scandion Oncology in drug resistance and the IO expertise and preclinical models at Alligator Biosciences. Specifically, we will explore the anti-tumor efficacy of the CD40 antibody mitazalimab (Alligator Bioscience) in combination with SCO-101 (Scandion Oncology) as an addition to chemotherapy in resistant preclinical tumor models. Mitazalimab enhances presentation of antigens released by cancer cells and is thought to be beneficial in combination with chemotherapy, where large amounts of antigens are being released by dying tumor cells. SCO-101 acts by blocking resistance mechanisms in cancer cells, allowing chemotherapy to kill previously resistant cancer cells. Thereby, SCO-101 would restore the release of antigens and re-activate the anti-cancer effects of the IO drugs.
Thus, the expectation is that SCO-101 will revert chemotherapy resistance and thereby further strengthening the anti-tumor effects of mitazalimab.
Q2) If successful, how will the combination treatment you aim to develop change current treatment?
If the preclinical experiments can provide proof-of-concept for enhancing the effect of IO drugs in the setting of chemotherapy resistance, we believe that this would be an interesting case for larger pharmaceutical companies to explore in a joint collaboration, to further explore the possibilities and potentially broaden the concept to other IO drugs. SCO-101 is already in Phase II clinical trials and Mitazalimab is also ready for Phase II trial. Thus, based on strong preclinical data, a potential way would be to initiate Phase II clinical trials with Mitazalimab and SCO-101 in chemotherapy resistant cancer patients. If the concept can be verified in Phase II clinical trials this combination treatment would have the potential to eventually become a standard treatment for the many patients that receive IO treatment, and hopefully provide stronger and more durable anti-cancer responses.
Q3) Do you think there is an untapped potential in Medicon Valleys based companies working more closely together, and if so, how can we realize this potential?
It is clear, that there a very large potential in the Öresund region, both in academia and among biotech companies and larger Pharma companies. The current collaboration is scientifically and commercially very sound and interesting. However, the environment of MV and the history of Carl and Nils in the establishment of the MV Oncology Network has certainly contributed to this collaboration. We are very pleased with the extensive ongoing activities in MV with all the meetings, workshops and networking opportunities. One possibility to broaden the knowledge between the companies represented in the Öresund region could be to arrange an annual “micro Bio Europe” in which the regional companies could meet, discuss and match up.