Public Release:  UMass Medical School licenses technology for the development of new cancer immunotherapeutics

University of Massachusetts Medical School

London and Worcester, MA--The University of Massachusetts Medical School has licensed "anti-gal" technology developed by Professor of Surgery and Medicine Uri Galili, PhD, to newly formed biopharmaceutical company Agalimmune Ltd. for the purpose of developing innovative immunotherapies for the treatment of solid tumor cancers. Agalimmune is supported by an investment group comprising Loxbridge Research LLP and Animatrix Capital LLP and is based in London and California. Initial funding raised by the company will be used to continue the translation of the UMMS anti-gal technology, Alphaject, to the clinic.

Alphaject is based on over 20 years of biomedical research carried out by Dr. Galili, who discovered the anti-gal immune response and its role in organ transplant rejection. Using the same anti-gal immune response, Alphaject can treat solid tumors in such a way that the body actively rejects them, akin to a non-matched graft or transplant.

"Immunotherapy holds great promise as a potential cancer treatment because it allows the body's own immune system to identify and eradicate cancer cells," said Giles Whalen, MD, professor of surgical oncology at UMass Medical School and principal investigator on early clinical trials to develop the Alphaject technology. "One of the great benefits of this approach is that the immune system can seek out and attack even the smallest traces of tumor anywhere in the body."

Injected directly into solid tumors, the Alphaject compound coats the cancer cells in alpha-gal, to which humans naturally have a high antibody concentration. The alpha-gal antigen is then recognized by the immune system as foreign, allowing it to begin destroying the cancerous cells immediately. Because the immune system now identifies the cancer cells as foreign, going forward it is able to recognize and remove any stray cancer cells that might be left after conventional surgery or that may have migrated away from the main tumor. The effect is analogous to a personalized cancer vaccine, acting continuously to prevent both metastasis and recurrence.

"What makes Alphaject so remarkable is it's designed to alert the immune system and respond to a specific type of cancer cell," said Dr. Whalen. "Unlike other immunomodulatory therapies, which may stimulate the immune system to attack cells indiscriminately, this helps ensure healthy cells don't get mistakenly targeted and destroyed."

"The development of immunomodulatory therapies is an exciting and rapidly emerging field, which hopefully will lead to improved anti-cancer treatments for patients," said Mike Westby, CEO of Agalimmune.

Charles Roberts, MD, CEO of Loxbridge Research, said "Agalimmune is the first therapeutic investment we have made at a stage when the technology has already been in patients, and we are honoured to be working with proven innovators UMass Medical School and Dr Galili, in furthering this promising treatment toward the eventual benefit of people battling cancer."

###

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), one of five campuses of the University system, is comprised of the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing, a thriving research enterprise and an innovative public service initiative, Commonwealth Medicine. Its mission is to advance the health of the people of the Commonwealth through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery with its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. In doing so, it has built a reputation as a world-class research institution and as a leader in primary care education. The Medical School attracts more than $240 million annually in research funding, placing it among the top 50 medical schools in the nation. In 2006, UMMS's Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, for their discoveries related to RNA interference (RNAi). The 2013 opening of the Albert Sherman Center ushered in a new era of biomedical research and education on campus. Designed to maximize collaboration across fields, the Sherman Center is home to scientists pursuing novel research in emerging scientific fields with the goal of translating new discoveries into innovative therapies for human diseases.

About Agalimmune

Agalimmune is a biopharmaceutical company with an innovative anti-cancer technology for the treatment of patients with solid tumors. The Company's vision is to harness the power of the cancer patient's own immune system to specifically target the tumor; not only to kill the tumor cells but also to bring about a long-lasting protective anti-tumor immune response. In addition to its ongoing efforts to develop cancer treatments, Agalimmune also establishes partnerships and collaborations with leading institutions and companies to research and develop pioneering targeted cancer vaccines and cell-based immunotherapeutic products. These internal and external efforts will continue to position Agalimmune at the cutting edge of innovative anti-cancer technologies. For more information got to: http://www.agalimmune.com.

About Loxbridge

Loxbridge Research LLP is a UK-based investment and project-management company founded in 2008 to create innovative life sciences technologies companies addressing massive global unmet needs. It sources innovation from academic institutions, existing companies and independent scientists - as well as a significant element of internal invention via its own team and extensive network of innovation-partners / key opinion leaders. The company is headquartered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain in Mayfair, London with activities (portfolio investments, labs, and academic partnerships) elsewhere in the UK and US. For more information go to: http://www.loxbridgeresearch.com.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.