Immutep Limited (ASX:IMM) CEO Marc Voigt talks about the company's clinical trial program, key milestones, collaborations and potential for immunotherapy.
Jessica Amir: Hello I’m Jessica Amir for the Finance News Network. Joining me from Immutep (ASX:IMM) is CEO, Marc Voigt. Mark, welcome to the Network.
Marc Voigt: Great pleasure to be here, thank you.
Jessica Amir: For investors new to the company, just give us a quick introduction?
Marc Voigt: Immutep is a biotech company, a globally active biotech company and we’re active in immuno oncology, as well as in autoimmune diseases. And it’s fair to say that we’re the worldwide leaders when it comes to LAG-3, which is a specific immune checkpoint.
Jessica Amir: Now to the trials. Can you tell us about what you’re doing in the metastatic breast cancer space?
Marc Voigt: With our lead program Eftilagimod Alpha, difficult name, exciting program, we have multiple different clinical trials. The biggest clinical trial is called AIPAC in metastatic breast cancer. 226 patients, Double Blind, Randomised to high quality clinical trial design. We’re going to recruit the patients, 226 this year and have a readout next year, which is very important for our company. We have other clinical trials. So one Phase 1 clinical trial here in Australia in metastatic melanoma, Keytruda plus Eftilagimod. So market a drug in combination with Eftilagimod our lead program, and there we’re going to see some data later in May.
And the third clinical trial actually is called Insight. It’s going on in Germany, in Frankfurt looking at intratumoral injection. And the second half of this year, we’re going to start a new clinical trial, which will be called TACTI-002 in conjunction with Merck & Co Inc (NYSE:MRK).
Jessica Amir: What are you doing in the immunotherapy space?
Marc Voigt: Practically our whole pipeline of four different product candidates is positioned in immunotherapy. We have two product candidates positioned in immuno oncology, one of those is Eftilagimod, which we just discussed. The second one is partnered with Novartis (VTX:NOVN) on a worldwide exclusive basis, now looking at four different clinical trials with that candidate. And then two product candidates in the autoimmune space, one partnership there with GSK (GlaxoSmithKline LON:GSK). They just finished one clinical trial, very exciting times for us and the pre-clinical asset, which we have under our control.
Jessica Amir: Moving to the big picture now, talking about your strategy. Just tell us how’s that going?
Marc Voigt: We have the strategy of teaming up with big pharma. So at the end of the day, big pharma is our customer. We have already secured three partnerships, one with Novartis, one with GlaxoSmithKline and just very recently in March, a partnership with Merck to collaborate regarding one clinical trial. And of course we are working on additional, hopefully good partnerships as well.
Jessica Amir: Now to financials. What can you tell us in terms of a brief snapshot?
Marc Voigt: We just released the 4C, we had end of March $20 million cash at bank. This is not taking into account the just very recently completed SPP (Share Price Plan), so this would add another $6 million. So our cash runway is well into Q4 2019 calendar year. And of course, it could be extended by our milestone payments, which we would hopefully get from our partners.
Jessica Amir: A more general question now, maybe you can tell us and the people at home. What the key difference is between normal therapy and immunotherapy, and how big the market is?
Marc Voigt: In oncology for instance, immuno oncology is really using the patients’ own immune systems. So you help the body to help itself, so to speak. That’s the key difference for instance compared to traditional chemotherapies, or targeted therapies. So it could make a major difference to the patients and this is not just fantasy, it’s reality. You’ll see it on the basis of approved products, like from our partner Merck, Keytruda for instance and other products. In autoimmune diseases, it’s a similar situation. So the more modern therapies are also looking at the immunity of the patients.
In oncology, we’re looking at big markets in general, around about US$100 billion annually, so quite big. And immuno oncology has an increasing share of that pie, so to speak. And in autoimmune diseases, we’re looking at US$50 billion annually and also there, the situation is similar. So immunotherapies are on the march, I would say.
Jessica Amir: Lastly before we close. Why should investors be investing in Immutep?
Marc Voigt: I believe that we have good validated background, because we have multiple partnerships, actually three of the top 10 pharma companies, first of all. Then we believe in value creation by our data, and data is what we’re going to see in the next six, 12 and 24 months. Very important so called value inflection points. And we have also just very recently secured the investment from two leading Australian institutions, Platinum Australia (ASX:PLA) and Australian Ethical (ASX:AEF). So I believe there are a number of reasons, especially if you believe in a fundamental way to approach biotech, why we should be on the list.
Jessica Amir: Marc Voigt, thank you so much for the update.
Marc Voigt: Thank you very much.