Venn Therapeutics, a privately held emerging biopharmaceutical company focused on turning “cold” tumors “hot”, has completed an exclusive licensing deal with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to advance its novel integrin αvβ8 antibody, created by a team of preeminent scientists at UCSF, led by Dr. Stephen Nishimura.
TGF-β plays a crucial, diverse role in regulating the immune system and is therefore an attractive target in many immune disorders and in cancer, according to Edith Janssen, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Venn. The challenge traditionally has been to target TGF-β signaling in a context-specific manner that ensures greater precision and efficacy, as well as reduction of undesirable side effects.
The integrin αvβ8 antibody does exactly that, Dr. Janssen said. Integrin αvβ8 is expressed by a wide variety of tumor cells and its expression correlates with tumor progression in many important cancers such as ovarian cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer etc. The activation of latent TGF-β is initiated by binding to the integrin αvβ8. Dr. Nishimura and the team at UCSF have developed very potent and selective antibodies to prevent the activation of TGF-β.
Stephen L. Nishimura, MD, Professor in the UCSF Department of Pathology and Chief of Pathology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, adds, “The development of integrin antibodies was a collective team effort of many of my colleagues at UCSF. These integrin antibodies allow us to target TGF-β safely and precisely. This is the key to developing an effective and safe therapeutic. This technology can be used both as a monotherapy and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors to target specific cancers based on key biomarkers and can have broad implications beyond cancer for infectious diseases among others.”
Dr. Janssen adds, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to advance integrin focused approach to target TGF-β. The safety profile of this approach gives me the confidence of the wide therapeutic application we can go after. Cancer is a formidable foe and it effectively uses TGF-β to escape destruction from the immune system. We think this will be a very important tool for a rational combination approach with checkpoint inhibitors and the data generated so far is very exciting.”
The license with Venn Therapeutics was negotiated by the Office of Technology Management, UCSF Innovation Ventures, which leads licensing and business development efforts on behalf of the university.
Venn Therapeutics plans to advance this asset towards a Phase 1 clinical trial and is adding the expertise of Dr. T. Shantha Raju as the Head of R&D to lead the development of the program. Dr. Raju has extensive experience in bringing antibodies from bench to bedside and has been part of well-known, marketed antibodies during his work at J&J and Genentech.
“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Raju to the team and lead this exciting program. We will now be focused on moving our pipeline programs rapidly towards the clinic and bring new therapeutics tools to the battlefield for the patients in their fight against cancer.” added Sam Shrivastava, Chairman and CEO of Venn Therapeutics.
About Venn Therapeutics:
Venn Therapeutics is an immuno-oncology company focused on turning immunologically cold tumors, hot. It focuses on innate priming strategies and overcoming the tumor microenvironment resistance to enhance cancer therapies.
For more information visit http://venntherapeutics.com/home.html
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The information stated above was prepared by Venn Therapeutics and reflects solely the opinion of the corporation. Nothing in this statement shall be construed to imply any support or endorsement of Venn, or any of its products, by The Regents of the University of California, its officers, agents and employees.