Cancer biotech Immutep’s flagship drug is to be used in conjunction with a cancer peptide vaccine discovered by artificial intelligence in new Japanese clinical trials, possibly netting Immutep up to $6.3 million.

Immutep (ASX:IMM) is the maker of eftilagimod alpha, more affectionately known as “efti”. It is a protein used in combination with other agents to amplify a patient’s immune response.

It is being used in five active cancer clinical trials, soon to become six thanks to the new deal with CLYTIMIC, a subsidiary of gigantic Japanese IT company NEC Corporation set up in 2016 “to promote the development and application of therapeutic cancer peptide vaccines discovered using NEC’s advanced artificial intelligence technology”.

“This technology combines machine learning and experimentation to produce a unique immune function prediction tool that is able to quickly and efficiently discover peptides that are reactive to multiple HLA alleles,” Immutep told investors.

The company’s shares jumped 16 per cent to as high as 3.6c on the news.

Immutep shares (ASX:IMM) over the past year.

Efti will be used in a vaccine alongside CLYTIMIC’s CYT001 cancer peptide vaccine, aimed at boosting a patient’s immune cells to recognise and kill cancer cells.

CLYTIMIC will fund all development costs as well as give Immutep an upfront payment of about $703,000. Milestone payments, if reached, could net Immutep up to $6.3 million.

Dr Shun Doi, CYLTIMIC chief said the partnership with Immutep would help realise a cancer vaccine immunotherapy.

“Our own studies have shown that the combination of LAG-3Ig and Poly IC synergistically boost the efficacy of peptide vaccine, and thus I believe the combination of efti in our vaccine CYT001, which is also unique as an application of artificial intelligence, is an important step to add a new solution in the cancer immunotherapy world,” he said.

Marc Voigt, Immutep’s chief, said he was excited by the potential of a new therapy.

“We are very excited to be working alongside CYTLIMIC to help evaluate efti as part of an innovative cancer vaccine that has potential as a new therapy. Efti is generating interest globally,” he said.

“Following the agreements with CYTLIMIC, it is now being evaluated as part of three different combination therapy types: as part of a therapeutic cancer vaccine, as a chemo-immunotherapy and in an IO combination, showing its broad therapeutic potential.”