Roche signs up with Oncimmune to explore immunotherapy responses

Roche has doubled down on a partnership with UK biotech Oncimmune looking at how autoantibodies can affect patients’ clinical response to cancer immunotherapies.

Autoantibodies are produced by the immune system and directed at one or more proteins in the body, which may include some which target tumour cells.

It’s thought that the presence of autoantibodies in blood could allow cancer to be diagnosed earlier – an area which Oncimmune is already addressing with its EarlyCDT platform.

The new ‘immune-profiling’ deal with Roche focuses on another aspect of autoantibodies however namely to monitor therapeutic outcomes or as indicators of disease prognosis.

Some studies have suggested that autoantibodies could also contribute to immune-related side effects of checkpoint inhibitor drugs.

The approach could lead to the development of “safer, more effective immuno-oncology treatments,” according to the UK firm.

It could also help determine patients who might benefit the most or suffer side effects with the current generation of checkpoint inhibitors, including Roche’s own PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab), and lead to the creation of companion diagnostics to guide treatment.

Roche had been working with Oncimmune on a pilot project in this area before, but the new deal extends that alliance with a new contract that includes a “substantial” but undisclosed upfront fee, says Oncimmune.

The biotech will apply its autoantibody screening technology SeroTag to plasma samples taken from patients during immunotherapy trials, comparing the immune profiles before and after treatment.

It will get underway immediately, and should be wrapped up in November, according to Oncimmune’s chief executive Adam Hill.

“This significant contract with Roche…strikes to the heart of understanding as to why cancer patients have differing responses to the same immunotherapy,” said Hill.

This contract, the largest we have signed to date, provides further evidence of our ability to convert pipeline opportunities into contracted revenues,” he added.

Oncimmune built out its immune profiling expertise with the £4.1 million ($5 million) acquisition of German biotech Protagen Diagnostics – which developed the SeroTag platform – in March of last year.

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