License agreement between CONICET and GSK for an anti-MICA monoclonal antibody

As a result of public-private collaboration in science, this agreement aims to develop an immunotherapy for cancer that obtained encouraging results in the preclinical phase.

License agreement between CONICET and GSK for an anti-MICA monoclonal antibody

CONICET and GSK announced a license agreement for a preclinical anti-MICA monoclonal antibody as a potential cancer treatment. In preclinical models, this technology delayed the growth of tumors by acting directly on the MICA proteins that are expressed on the surface of tumor cells. The license agreement contemplates an initial payment to CONICET and future payments based on the results in clinical development, as well as the payment of rights on future net sales of any drug developed based on this antibody or any of its derivatives.

This work is the result of a long-term collaboration between the Argentine State and GSK’s Trust in Science initiative. It began in 2013 and was made by Norberto Zwirner and Mercedes Fuertes, CONICET specialists at the Institute of Experimental Biology and Medicine (IBYME, CONICET) who led the development of the anti-MICA monoclonal antibody with the contribution of funds and scientific expertise from GSK.

The agreement represents an important step in identifying promising targets for the next generation of immuno-oncology therapies at GSK and in scientific research in Latin America. Given that the preclinical studies demonstrated the good performance of the therapeutic strategy led by Zwirner and Fuertes with the participation of other specialists. The next step will be to carry out clinical trials to verify its safety and efficacy.

The President of CONICET Ana Franchi said: “Today we are celebrating an achievement and a hope, an achievement because we reached a license agreement that has more than 20 years of research and advances, and 11 years of collaboration with GSK through Trust in Science; and hope because it encourages us to think that this antibody could help people live longer and better”.

Franchi congratulated the CONICET team and stated: “We are also celebrating for the quality of our researchers and fellows, highly specialized human resources that were trained in our universities and science and technology institutions and that can develop this type of project. Argentina has excelled in biomedical sciences with Nobel Prizes, but there are also other areas where we can be at the level of the most developed countries in the world and we cannot lose these opportunities for articulation, because our scientific development is sovereignty”.

In his speech, Filmus congratulated Zwirner and Fuertes for the development and thanked GSK for their trust in Argentina. The minister highlighted that “there are a series of amazing coincidences that make this possible: international cooperation; the articulation between the public and the private; the articulation between basic research and transnational medicine; the inter-institutional articulation between the MINCyT, the CONICET, the R+D+i Agency and the universities; and the importance of science as a State policy, as seen in this case of an investigation that took more than twenty years. And this is one of our fundamental concerns: to generate State policies in the field of science and technology that promote medium and long-term perspectives to improve the lives of our people and so that our researchers can develop their careers and talent in our country in a federal way.

“Today, with this license, I feel that I am walking the path that goes from the gene to the patient in person. We have come a long way from the laboratory research stage and now we are in the stages of translational medicine, approaching treatment in human patients. It is an honor and I feel great emotion”, indicated Zwirner, PhD in Biochemical Sciences and CONICET researcher at IBYME. And he added that over the years they became interested in the validation of new monoclonal targets in immuno-oncology because although chemotherapies are a great solution for patients, they leave many without receiving adequate treatment.

“We wanted to study if the MICA molecule could be a therapeutic target for cancer and after several years of work we achieved encouraging results,” said Zwirner.

Fuertes, now a PhD in Biological Sciences and a CONICET researcher at IBYME, joined Zwirner’s group in 2000 when she was a biology student to do a research project for the end of her degree. “Norberto suggested that I generate a monoclonal component that would recognize, that is, it would stick to the MICA protein that I was studying, so the development of the antibody and its characterization was my undergraduate thesis, 22 years ago, and it has been with me since half of my life,” said the researcher.

According to Fuertes, from preclinical studies, they found that the anti-MICA monoclonal antibody served as a bridge that enabled the immune system to recognize tumors and inhibit their growth. And she added: “This is part of what is known as immunotherapy, which aims at making the immune system of a patient redirect itself and recognize tumors and eliminate them. The results are so good that it was possible to move towards this license agreement that aims to transform this preclinical product into a product suitable for use in humans, and that it can enter clinical trials where it is defined whether the product has efficacy and can be used as a medicine to treat cancer patients.”

The announcement of the license agreement between CONICET and GSK comes more than 11 years after the GSK initiative was launched in Latin America. The public-private cooperation model focuses not only on providing funds, but also on peer-to-peer scientific collaboration. By establishing this model of close collaboration between scientists, academics and industry, with regular meetings to share data and ideas, the Trust in Science ensures that the benefits of the initiative go beyond financial, and include monitoring, advice and project management and support for the development of local scientific talent.

Director of the Trust in Science Initiative, Kevin Madauss, said: “GSK is committed to uniting science, talent and technology to reach the disease earlier. We understand that talent and innovation are global resources, and the Trust in Science was established to pursue opportunities for collaboration with high-quality science. This agreement with CONICET is the most important achievement of Trust in Science and the validation of the effort.”

Gastón Domíngues Caetano, General Manager of GSK Argentina, indicated: “This year at GSK Argentina we celebrate 100 uninterrupted years. This milestone that we reached demonstrates our commitment to unite science, talent and technology to improve people’s quality of life. With Trust in Science we seek to promote Argentine science in the field of health and we are proud to accompany each of the research projects on topics of high social priority (Chagas disease, tuberculosis, HIV, oncology, immuno-oncology and vaccines). . This achievement encourages us to continue working collaboratively in the research and development of new medicines”.

“We are proud of this achievement of Argentine science carried out through the Trust in Science Program that represents the union of public and private efforts to develop high-quality scientific research, which will be continued by GSK for the potential development of a treatment for cancer. We want to thank CONICET and the entire research team led by Dr. Norberto Zwirner and Dr. Mercedes Fuertes who worked daily on this discovery”, highlighted Rosana Felice, Medical Director of GSK Argentina.

The license signing was celebrated with the participation of the President of CONICET, Ana Franchi, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Daniel Filmus, the President of the R+D+i Agency, Fernando Peirano, the Technology Transfer Manager of CONICET, Sergio Romano, the Vice President of the Tumor Cell Guidance Research Unit of GSK United Kingdom, Kenneth Hance; GSK UK Vice President of Biopharmaceutical Discovery and Drug Design, Steve Martin; the Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Argentina, Kirsty Hayes; the Argentine Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Javier Figueroa, the Global Director of Trust in Science of GSK, Kevin Madauss; the General Manager of GSK Argentina, Gastón Domingues Caetano; the Medical Director of GSK Argentina, Rosana Felice and the Legal Director of GSK Argentina, Diego Álvarez García.