immatics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing advanced immunotherapies that are active against cancer.
immatics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing advanced immunotherapies that are active against cancer. Based in Germany, the company was founded by Harpreet Singh and colleagues in 2000 as a spin-off from the Institute of Immunology at the University of Tuebingen and has so far raised a total of 142 million euros ($190 million) from renowned private equity investors.
It uses multiple and relevant peptides that specifically activate T cells, specialized white blood cells, of the patient’s immune system against cancer cells. The technology can also lead towards the development novel immunotherapies based on antibodies and T-cell receptors. The three advantages of immatics’ approach in comparison to currently available anti-cancer therapies are: (1) its high specificity for the cancer concerned, (2) its overall very good side effect profile (usually restricted to mild skin reactions at the injection site) and (3) it does not require any patient material (cancer or immune cells) to be taken from the patient, therefore the vaccine can be delivered conveniently and cost-effectively. As a result, immatics’ therapeutic cancer vaccines directly address the high unmet medical need in many cancer indications for specific, effective and well tolerated treatments. immatics’ cancer vaccines also have the advantage that they are “drug like” with stable, off-the-shelf formulations and robust, easily scalable manufacturing. Based on its unique, proprietary technology platform XPRESIDENT, immatics identifies large numbers of these so-called tumor-associated peptides (TUMAPs) directly from primary tumor tissue. In this way, immatics is uniquely positioned to identify the cancer peptidome of any cancer indication from which the best TUMAPs are selected for treatment of a particular tumor type. These TUMAPs are recognized by T cells, key players in the body’s cellular immune response. Accordingly, when used as a vaccine, TUMAPs activate cytotoxic T cells and T helper cells, which have the ability to eradicate cancer cells once they are primed effectively.
Currently, immatics is the only company using multiple peptides in each product confirmed to be present on real human tumor tissue. Addressing several targets at once increases the chance of eliminating the cancerous cells and minimizes the risk of the tumor escaping the immune system. The company has identified tens of thousands of novel TUMAP sequences and has secured patent rights for those with high potential for use in cancer therapy.
Its lead product, IMA901, for the treatment of kidney cancer, is in a global Phase III clinical trial. It completed a European multi-center Phase II clinical trial in renal cell carcinoma (RCC, kidney cancer) in 2009. Some 68 patients with advanced RCC were treated and highly encouraging overall survival rates were observed, significantly improving on the data seen from market-leading drugs in previous studies. Additionally, the survival of patients was associated with how well they mounted an immune response when treated with the vaccine confirming a very similar observation seen in the Phase I trial. Furthermore, IMA901 showed an excellent safety profile. Based on these encouraging results and on discussions with regulatory bodies in the US (FDA) and Europe (EMA), immatics initiated a pivotal, randomized, controlled Phase III study that, presenting positive outcomes, could soon lead to the market approval of IMA901. Recruitment into this randomized Phase III trial is now completed with the target number of patients (330) achieved. The trial will compare the impact of IMA901 on overall survival when combined with the tyrosinase kinase inhibitor sunitinib (Sutent), from US pharma giant Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) – the standard treatment for first-line RCC patients – to sunitinib alone. The Phase III study is supported by Pfizer which is supplying sunitinib for all patients in the trial.
Other clinical-stage products are IMA910 for the treatment of colorectal cancer, which has completed a multi-center Phase II clinical trial, and IMA950 for the treatment of brain cancer, which is in Phase I clinical studies with partners. It also has active earlier programs in several other tumor types including gastric cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer and prostate cancer being developed in collaboration with its partner Swiss drug major Roche (ROG: SIX).