immatics biotechnologies GmbH is a biopharmaceutical company wholly concerned with the development of advanced immunotherapies that are active against different types of cancer, including renal cell, colorectal, brain and gastric cancer. The company currently has a workforce of 80 at its headquarters in Tübingen and subsidiary in Munich. It capitalises on the know-how in the analysis of tumour cells and vaccine development gained through its intensive liaison work with the Department of Immunology led by Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Rammensee at the University of Tübingen. This particular kind of precision technology is only available in Tübingen.
In October 2013, immatics closed its fourth financing round, worth 34 million euros. Funding was secured by existing investors, including dievini Hopp BioTech holding GmbH & Co. KG, Wellington Partners, MIG Verwaltung AG and AT Impf GmbH. “The funds will enable us to conclude the clinical phase III testing of IMA901, immatics’ lead renal cell carcinoma vaccine. The funds will also enable us to finish regulatory filings in the USA and Europe,” said Dr. Harpreet Singh, managing director and CSO of immatics biotechnologies GmbH. IMA901 is a cancer vaccine comprising 10 different tumour-associated peptides (TUMAPs) that are found to be highly over-expressed in the majority of patients suffering from renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The vaccine is currently undergoing testing in a randomised, controlled phase III clinical trial. It has orphan drug designation in the USA and Europe for the treatment of RCC in HLA-A*02 positive patients. “Before being placed on the international market, drugs have to undergo phase I through phase III testing. In Europe, marketing authorisation is sought from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and in the USA from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Singh explained.
The randomised, controlled phase III trial involves 339 patients at sites in the USA and Europe and evaluates survival times using IMA901 in combination with sunitinib (tyrosin kinase inhibitor marketed as Sutent® and standard first-line therapy). Sutent® was developed by the global pharmaceutical company Pfizer. immatics expects the combination of IMA901 and sunitinib to be more effective in prolonging patient survival with metastatic or locally advanced RCC than therapy with sunitinib alone. The phase III trial builds on a positive phase II trial with IMA901 in advanced RCC patients. The trial showed that patients who produced an immune response to two or more of the TUMAPs contained in IMA901 had a significantly longer survival. Peter Chambré, chairman of the immatics board, was delighted that the company’s current investors have committed to backing the company’s cancer vaccine and immunotherapy approach. Chambré also confirmed that the IMA901 phase II results demonstrate that the company’s cancer vaccine portfolio and immunotherapy approach is very promising. The company is therefore looking forward to the final IMA901 phase III results in 2015.
Besides the company’s lead product IMA901, immatics’ vaccine portfolio comprises IMA910 against colorectal carcinoma (phase I/II trials have been completed) and IMA950 against brain tumours (currently undergoing phase I testing).
immatics uses its unique XPRESIDENT® technology platform for the identification of novel cancer antigens, so-called tumour-associated peptides (TUMAPs) that are naturally processed and presented on real tumour cells. “These tumour-associated peptides form the basis for the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies, including antibodies and soluble T-cell receptors that specifically recognise such peptides,” Singh confirmed. “Since our TUMAPs can be directly identified from primary human tumour material, immatics’ approach differs considerably from the usual in silico or other indirect methods that usually do not provide evidence for the existence of such TUMAPs in real tumours.”
immatics’ vaccines contain multiple TUMAPs that maximise the possibility of clinical success. The vaccination of the patients with multiple TUMAPs leads to the priming of different T cells and simultaneous attack of the tumour at multiple target sites. Positive phase II trials with IMA901 and IMA910 show that patients who produced an immune response to two or more of the TUMAPs contained in IMA901 and IMA910 respectively have a longer survival time.
In November 2013, immatics signed a strategic research and development collaboration with Roche, the market leader in the field of oncology. Under the agreement, immatics biotechnologies GmbH and Roche will focus on the research, clinical development and commercialisation of a number of new TUMAP-based cancer vaccine candidates and other immunotherapies in oncology, primarily targeting gastric, prostate and non-small cell lung cancer. The cooperation between the two companies once again confirms the potential of the XPRESIDENT® platform that is used by immatics for the high-throughput identification of novel and relevant TUMAPs.
Outlook: vaccines tailored to the individual requirements of cancer patients
Singh believes that the future of oncology lies in personalised immunotherapy. The concept of personalised peptide vaccines was developed by Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Rammensee, director of the Department of Immunology at the University of Tübingen, more than 10 years ago. immatics is now working on therapeutic cancer vaccines tailored to the requirements of individual patients.
Fourteen partners from seven European countries and the USA have formed the Glioma Actively Personalised VAccine Consortium (GAPVAC), a EU-funded initiative aimed at developing a novel fully personalised cancer vaccine for brain cancer patients. The consortium is led by immatics biotechnologies GmbH (coordinator) and BioNTech AG (vice coordinator) from Mainz. Prof. Rammensee from Tübingen will also play a leading role in the project. Singh comments: “The overall project budget amounts to eight million euros, of which the largest proportion, i.e. six million euros, comes from the European Union 7th Framework Programme.” The initiative is aimed at developing personalised therapies against glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumour with a poor prognosis. Therapies that would significantly extend the life of glioblastoma patients are currently not available.
Dr. Nikola WiegelerAssistant to the Management & Corporate Communications immatics biotechnologies GmbHTel.: +49 7071 53 97 110Fax: +49 7071 53 97 900E-mail: wiegeler(at)immatics.com