Immutep Limited (ASX:IMM) Executive Director and CEO, Marc Voigt provides an update on the company's clinical trials, collaboration with large pharma and key milestones.
Jessica Amir: Hello I’m Jessica Amir for the Finance News Network. Today I’m with Immutep(ASX:IMM) CEO, Marc Voigt. Marc thanks for coming and welcome back.
Marc Voigt: Thank you so much.
Jessica Amir: For those who don’t know Marc, Immutep(ASX:IMM) is an immuno-oncology cancer company also focusing on autoimmune diseases. But maybe you could just give us a quick introduction to the company, and tell us about immunotherapy.
Marc Voigt: As you rightly said, Immutep is a biotech company; we are globally active. Probably the most important key characteristic is that we are leading with LAG-3, in terms of the most important human checkpoint beyond the approved ones, so PD-1 and CTLA-4.
Jessica Amir: You’ve recently signed two new agreements in 2018, one with Merck & Co (NYSE:MRK) and one with Pfizer Pharmaceutical (NYSE:PFE). Just tell us about the agreements and what they mean to Immutep?
Marc Voigt: So indeed in March this year, we signed an agreement with US Merck (NYSE:MRK) or MSD, in terms of a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement. And in September this year, we have been able to sign a second agreement of that sort, also for EftilagimodAlpha. So both agreements are for EftilagimodAlpha, our lead program and it’s with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)and German Merck(MRK:Xetra). So there are two Mercks andthis is sometimes confusing people.
Jessica Amir: What do you think the attraction is really for these companies to collaborate with IMM?
Marc Voigt: I believe we have a very interesting lead program candidate, EftilagimodAlpha. It’s a new activator, antigenpresenting cell activator. And the current data suggests that it works synergistically with anti-PD-1 therapies.And I believe that this is needed for the patients in order to improve the monotherapy, which is currently in some indications standard of care.
Jessica Amir: If you wouldn’t mind explaining the two different agreements. So you’ve signed one with Merck Germany and the other with Merck US, you signed that earlier this year. Just explain the two differences?
Marc Voigt: First of all, these are two different products. Merck US is dealing with the blockbuster drug, Keytruda is the name, and we have already clinical experience in terms of Keytruda plus Eftilagimod, with I believe very encouraging results. And with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)and German Merck, they manage together Avelumab, another antibody anti-PDL1, also an improvedproduct. And both collaborations deal with clinical trials, clinical experience of the combination of the respective programs from our partners and EftilagimodAlpha.
Jessica Amir: Marc, how are the preparations for TACTI-002, the clinical trial, going and when are you likely to recruit patients?
Marc Voigt: We have made good progress in terms of preparing TACTI-002. It’s an important clinical trial, up to 110 patients, which will be conducted in the United States, Australia, UKand Spain. We will have three different clinical settings, so first and second line non-small cell lung cancer, andneck cancer. And we would like to commence from a regulatory point of view, before the end of this year and then to recruit the first patients, probably early next year.
Jessica Amir: Immutep is partnering with a lot of profound companies, five of the largest pharma companies in the world. Maybe you can tell us about your other collaborations and how they’re going?
Marc Voigt: So we have collaborations with Novartis Pharmaceutical (SWX:NOVN), GSK Pharmaceutical (LON:GSK), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)and the two Mercks. And with Novartis, it’s going very well I believe, and Novartis initiated during 2018, two additional clinical trials. So they doubled the clinical trial program for the partner product, which they call LAG525, we call it IMP701. And they now aim to recruit more than 900 patients, so it’s a massive investment, even for a big company like Novartis.
For GSK, the situation is similar, that’s an autoimmune disease product. They finished phase one in March this year and they will move ahead in colitis, and expect clinical proof of concept in 2020. And for us, the situation is very good to have a balanced pipeline. So two fully partnered programs with no expenses, but milestone payments and two assets, which we are developing ourselves.
Jessica Amir: Changing pace now. Where do you see the biggest opportunity for Immutep currently?
Marc Voigt: That’s a good question, because we have so many things going on. But I believe that data will define the success, the valuation of our business and data is what we are going to create, especially in 2019. So we have a lot of milestones ahead. The first readout from our biggest clinical trial called AIPAC, it’s expected the second half of next year. Final data from TACTI-mel, another clinical trial, first data from the Merck collaboration, first data from the Merck Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)collaboration and this is just for our lead program, Eftilagimod.Also the newest member of the LAG-3 family, IMP761 will hopefully deliver interesting results. We just completed a preclinical study and hope to publish the results next year, as well.
Jessica Amir: Lastly Marc. What’s the next big milestone out on the horizon?
Marc Voigt: First of all the data, we have multiple clinical trials, which are reading out next year. We have just had a nice presentation at SITC in Washington, past weekend. We are going to see more data and of course, we’re always active in business development and this is what we have to do, in order to be successful in the future. So a lot of milestones, a lot of important milestones to come.
Jessica Amir: Wonderful. Marc Voigt, thank you so much for the update.
Marc Voigt: Thank you.