Durham-based Grid Therapeutics, an oncology-focused biotechnology company, has signed an exclusive license agreement with Duke University to develop the first human-derived antibody as a targeted immunotherapy for cancer.

Under the agreement, Grid Therapeutics acquired exclusive rights to all intellectual property, including relevant patents, related to Complement Factor H (CFH) antibodies as a cancer therapy, and diagnostics around CFH, the company said in a news release. Duke became a shareholder in the company.

“We are pleased to sign this exclusive license agreement with Duke to advance this truly innovative science into clinical trials and begin evaluating the therapeutic treatment options for multiple forms of cancer,” said Paolo Paoletti, M.D., a Grid board member and CEO of GammaDelta Therapeutics of London. “This agreement allows Grid to rapidly develop a new generation of cancer immunotherapies based on a human-derived antibody that inhibits CFH, a protein that serves to protect cancer cells.”

The company plans to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial of its lead therapy candidate in patients with advanced-stage solid tumors in early 2019.

The therapy is based on a molecular genomics platform for discovering and isolating human-derived antibodies. The platform was used to identify tumor-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in patients with early stage lung cancer whose tumors had not metastasized, or spread.  

Grid said its lead IgG3 antibody was derived from single B cells isolated from these “exceptional outcome” patients.

The antibody not only directly kills tumor cells without detrimental effects on normal tissues, but also modulates the adaptive immune response to attack tumor cells anywhere in the body, the company said.

Grid, established in 2016, is based on the research of Edward F. “Ned” Patz Jr., M.D., the James and Alice Chen Professor of Radiology at Duke’s School of Medicine and also a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology and a professor of pathology. Patz and his colleagues are focused on lung cancer biology and early cancer detection.

Patz is the co-founder and CEO of Grid but remains on the Duke faculty.

Initial investors in the company include Duke’s Office of Licensing and Ventures and Longview International, a Singapore-based venture capital company that invests in biotechnology companies.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center