• Immutep is licensing tech, lending expertise to LabCorp to help develop LAG-3 diagnostic test
  • Tests would help oncologists choose the best therapies for patients
  • The move shows increased interest in “checkpoint inhibitor” therapies targeting the LAG-3 gene

Sydney biotech Immutep (ASX:IMM) has partnered with LabCorp (NYSE:LH), licensing technology in its research and development pipeline and providing its expertise in a gene known as LAG-3 so that the US S&P500 component can develop a diagnostic test to help doctors and oncologists select the best therapy for patients.

The LAG-3 gene was discovered in 1990 by Immutep’s chief medical officer, French immunologist Frédéric Triebel. Because it works to regulate the immune system it is the target of over 15 potential therapies being explored in 60 clinical trials around the world, although none have been approved yet. But other drugs targeting different immune checkpoints have been, including Keytruda, Opdivo and Durvalumab, which harness the body’s immune system to target cancer cells.

“Over the years, Immutep has generated a significant amount of know-how in immuno-oncology, specifically in terms of LAG-3,” said Immutep chief executive Marc Voigt.

The company’s lead drug candidate, “efti”, is a soluble LAG-3 protein being evaluated in clinical trials to treat several different cancers.

Under the agreement, Immutep is eligible to receive an upfront fee of $US125,000 and potential further commercial milestone and service payments.

Bell Potter said in a note that it was “pleasantly surprised” by this development.

“IMM could not have hoped for a better partner to enter the diagnostics field with and LabCorp’s interest in collaborating with IMM is a huge validation for IMM’s expertise and leadership in LAG-3.”

LabCorp had been at the forefront of diagnostics for the checkpoint inhibitor PD-1 – the gene targeted by Keytruda, Opdivo and Litayo – and this shows the company sees a need for diagnostics for anti-LAG-3 therapies, Bell Potter said.

The brokerage retained its speculative buy rating on Immutep, with a 60c price target.

A little after noon, Immutep shares were up 3.9 per cent to 26.5c.