BMS invests $12m in cancer immunotherapy tie-up with Compugen

Bristol-Myers Squibb has invested $12 million in Compugen, a biotech that is investigating a new approach that could boost the effectiveness of its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Opdivo.

BMS said it had invested in Israel-based Compugen and begun a clinical trial collaboration testing the latter’s COM7012, an investigational anti-PVRIG antibody in combination with Opdivo (nivolumab), a programmed death-1 (PD-1) checkpoint inhibitor in patients with solid tumours.

Checkpoint inhibitors work by flipping a chemical switch – PD-1 – that allows the body’s immune system to recognise cancer, and calling in an attack from T-cells.

Compugen will sponsor the ongoing two-part Phase 1 trial, which includes the evaluation of the combination of COM701 and Opdivo in four tumour types, including non-small cell lung, ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer.

The collaboration will also investigate other combinations, including trials sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb to investigate combined inhibition of checkpoint mechanisms, such as PVRIG and TIGIT.

The clinical combination of multiple immune checkpoint inhibition is designed to test the biological rationale of the PVRIG pathway after preclinical models suggested it enhanced the effects of checkpoint inhibition.

COM701 is a humanised antibody that binds with high affinity to PVRIG, a novel B7/CD28-like immune checkpoint target candidate discovered by Compugen, blocking the interaction with its ligand, PVRL2.

Blockade of PVRIG by COM701 has been shown to boost T cell activation, consistent with the desired mechanism of activating T cells in the areas around tumours.

Preclinical experiments so far have shown that PVRIG may be a checkpoint that could be exploited in a range of patients whose tumours express elevated levels of the receptor PVRL2, compared with expression of the TIGIT ligand PVR.

COM701 could be used in breast, endometrial, ovarian, lung, kidney, and head and neck cancers when combined with various other drugs, the companies said.

Under the terms of the share purchase agreement, BMS will make a $12 million investment in Compugen comprised of 2,424,243 shares of Compugen stock purchased at $4.95 per share, representing a 33% premium over the average closing price on the last 20 NASDAQ trading days.


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