Imugene (ASX:IMU) targeting gastric cancer


by Anna Napoli

Imugene Limited (ASX:IMU) Managing Director & CEO, Leslie Chong discusses trial progress with the company's HER-B Vaxx cancer vaccines, the advantages of B-cell vaccines and outlook for 2H19.

Anna Napoli: Hello, I'm Anna Napoli for the Finance News Network, and joining me now from Imugene (ASX:IMU) is CEO and MD Leslie Chong.

Leslie, welcome back.

Leslie Chong: Thank you.

Anna Napoli: Imugene (ASX:IMU) is a immuno-oncology company that's basically developing a range of treatments for disease whereby the body's immune system attacks the disease. How's the business progressing?

Leslie Chong: It's going great. We've got some incredible results from our first Phase 1b that is completed as recent as a few months ago and we're already in the Phase 2.

Anna Napoli: And, Leslie, before we talk about your drug candidates, can we talk about the science behind the B-cell peptides vaccines?

Leslie Chong: Earlier you mentioned that these immuno-oncology therapies wake up your immune system so that your immune then fights the cancer, and that's exactly what we're doing. So we wake up your B-cells to create antibodies, which are essentially drugs that you're endogenously naturally causing to form these antibodies and then they go after the particular kind of cancers.

Anna Napoli: Can you tell us more about these vaccines, starting with your HER-Vaxx?

Leslie Chong: Sure. As I said earlier, HER-Vaxx has completed our Phase 1b study. We have learned a tremendous amount about our compound HER-Vaxx, which is an anti HER-2 in gastric cancer, currently, and we know that it is showing some promising signs of response for efficacy, and we know that antibody production is exactly where we thought it would be, very high, and so we're moving right across into Phase 2 and we're quite excited about that. But our next up product is called KEY-Vaxx which is an anti PD-1, Programmed Death-1, and it's all about enabling your immune system to really attack several different varieties of cancer and will go into lung initially for that particular compound.

Anna Napoli: What's the market size for these vaccines?

Leslie Chong: So lung is huge, and gastric is relatively about a million people a year are diagnosed with gastric cancer and a lot more for lung cancer. But in clinical trials what we target is a particular indication like, say, gastric or lung, and then we expand into the broader categories.

Anna Napoli: The KEY-Vaxx sounds very interesting. Can you walk us through that a bit more?

Leslie Chong: Sure. KEY-Vaxx is an anti PD-1. There's about two or four PD-1s or PD-L1s already in the market. They garner prices like 7, 8, 10 billions of dollars, and one of the differentiation of our product is that your B-cells create the anti PD-1 antibodies, so it then is not a monoclonal antibody whereby it's synthetically made. It has a long-lasting affect because, again, your body is creating it, and B-cells have this wonderful thing called a memory, so anytime it sees something malignant, your body keeps producing those antibodies, so it's this beautiful, long-standing. One of the things that we're quite excited about is having that longevity, so the patients don't require or acquire a resistance to the drug because your body's creating it, and the cost of goods, it's about a tenth of the cost of, say, an approved drug out there, and so the beauty of it is is whoever partners with us, a pharmaceutical, a biotech company, they can have lots of flexibility. In the age of, now, combination, we could add that efficacy, the safety and also costing that is solely needed in pharmaceutical products now.

Anna Napoli: And what sort of a timeframe are you looking at for the commercialisation of these vaccines?

Leslie Chong: HER-Vaxx has completed a Phase 1b, and as early as at the end of this year we will likely see some interim results from the Phase 2. With KEY-Vaxx, we can anticipate that that will be going into the clinic as early as at the end of the year. We had a pretty phenomenal FDA pre-clinical meeting with them, the FDA, US FDA, and so we're anticipating that we can investigate a new drug package together and get that into the clinic.

Anna Napoli: Can you talk about funding behind these vaccines and also your share price over the last 12 months?

Leslie Chong: I'm really fortunate that we're fairly cashed up to see all our pipeline go across the definitive end, so I've got quite a long runway for that, and we've got supporters like Platinum Asset Management (ASX:PTM), PPM, private portfolio managers, and we've got doctors on our registry that understands the science and supports us, so I'm pretty pleased with our registry as well as the money that I have in the bank in which to carry out all my programs.

Anna Napoli: And, Leslie, what are the major milestones looking forward over the next 12 months?

Leslie Chong: As early as at the end of this year you could see HER-Vaxx in term Phase 2 data, and then, of course, KEY-Vaxx going into the clinic, we're quite excited about that. We'll also get some data across B-Vaxx, and that is another anti HER-2 at Ohio State University.

Anna Napoli: Leslie Chong, thank you so much for the update.

Leslie Chong: Thank you.