Acepodia uncorks a very early win for its antibody-natural killer cell conjugates in HER2 tumors
Can the antibody-drug conjugate model be applied to an off-the-shelf NK cell therapy? Acepodia uncorked preliminary Phase I data at #ESMO21 that suggest the answer may be yes.
Private biotech Acepodia’s lead “antibody cell conjugation” (ACC) candidate ACE1702 was well-tolerated in seven patients with advanced HER2 tumors who received lower doses of the drug, CEO Sonny Hsiao announced early Thursday. The patients who received the first four dose levels showed no signs of cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity or graft versus host disease — and one of them achieved a confirmed partial response; not earth-shattering, but a positive sign.
“We didn’t expect to see the result on the efficacy,” Hsiao told Endpoints News ahead of ESMO. More than a decade after the discovery of the company’s ACC technology, Hsiao said the readout “reflects the hard work of our international teams as we continue to gain momentum.”
The data could also spell good news for JW Therapeutics, which plunked down an undisclosed amount last summer to develop and commercialize the candidate in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Acepodia’s core technology traces back to Hsiao’s research at Berkeley, where he discovered a way to conjugate antibodies with NK cells in a similar fashion to ADCs. While most NK cell therapies are already administered in conjunction with antibodies, they’re usually given separately, making for less potency, Acepodia believes. By conjugating the two, the cancer-targeting antibodies are less likely to diffuse throughout the body, Hsiao told Endpoints earlier this year.
The ACCs also help activate the entire immune system to fight the tumor, Hsiao added, as conjugating the NK cells directly provides for an enhanced immune response compared to current NK cell therapies or the typical ADC.
“It’s a mild chemical conjugation reaction to link the antibody, which means we don’t need genetic engineering,” the CEO said on Wednesday. “Our ACC will actually be more streamlined, quicker and easier to manufacture, and that will also reflect the low production cost,” compared to other cell therapies, he added.
The Phase I trial is expected to include about 16 patients total, counting patients who were given higher doses. Hsiao says data on those patients won’t be ready until Q2 of next year. After finding the maximum tolerated dose, the CEO expects to expand the study by approximately nine to 12 patients before leaping into a Phase II test.
The Alameda, CA-based biotech hooked a $47 million Series B round back in March, bringing its total raise up to $57 million. The two programs coming up behind ACE1702 will target CD20 and PD-L1, respectively, with plans to launch the CD20 program into the clinic next year. An IND for the PD-L1 program will likely follow in the second half of next year, Hsiao said.