Cancer play Immutep is branching into autoimmune diseases
Health & Biotech
An illustration of autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimotos disease), shows antibodies attacking the thyroid. Pic: Getty
Patent wins aren’t usually big news, but Immutep chief Marc Voigt says the cancer-fighter’s latest patent is a significant opportunity that is “not well recognised by the markets”.
Immutep (ASX:IMM) made two announcements on Tuesday — an operational update on their various clinical trials and partnerships with big pharma heavyweights, and a short note about securing a Canadian patent grant for IMP731, an antibody designed to treat or prevent organ transplant rejection and autoimmune disease.
Immutep is well-known in the cancer field. Its main focus is immuno-oncology (the website tagline is “effective immunotherapy against cancer”).
Its flagship product, efitilagimod alpha — otherwise known as IMP321 or more affectionately referred to as “efti” — is a protein used in combination with other agents to amplify a patient’s immune response. It is now being used in three active cancer clinical trials.
But Mr Voigt says there’s more strings to Immutep’s bow.
“Beside the immuno-oncology we’ve got two products in our portfolio that are not targeting cancer but autoimmune diseases,” he told Stockhead. “It’s not well recognised by the markets.”
Those are IMP731, licensed to GlaxoSmithKline, which is undertaking a clinical trial; and IMP761, which is an agonist (a substance that fully activates the receptor that it binds to) antibody of LAG-3, an immune checkpoint receptor which is the target of various studies across the world.
“The antibody is designed to kill the troublemakers in autoimmune diseases,” said Mr Voigt. “It goes to the core of the disease and it leaves the immune system relatively intact — unlike its closest competitor, Lemtrada, which wipes out your whole immune system which can result in negative side effects.
Immutep’s shares hit their highest point since early June off the back of the news, rising 5 per cent to 3.8cc.
The June 4 watermark, which hit 4.1c, is the highest the company has traded since it rebranded from Prima BioMed in December.
“That was the final step of our repositioning,” Voigt said. “It’s now very clear our focus has shifted and I believe in the biotech global mission. It is for the good of mankind.”