Can­cer R&D stars Jim Al­li­son, Tasuku Hon­jo award­ed No­bel prize for im­munother­a­py dis­cov­er­ies

Im­munother­a­py pi­o­neers James Al­li­son and Tasuku Hon­jo has joint­ly won the 2018 No­bel prize in phys­i­ol­o­gy and med­i­cine “for their dis­cov­ery of can­cer ther­a­py by in­hi­bi­tion of neg­a­tive im­mune reg­u­la­tion.”

Al­li­son, now a pro­fes­sor at MD An­der­son and an af­fil­i­ate of the Park­er In­sti­tute, came to fame for his pi­o­neer­ing idea to un­leash a T cell at­tack on can­cer cells by block­ing the pro­tein CT­LA-4. Hon­jo, a long­time fac­ul­ty at Ky­oto Uni­ver­si­ty, is cred­it­ed with the dis­cov­ery of PD-1 on the sur­face of T cells — which has been the ba­sis of most check­point ther­a­pies cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket.

While care­ful to note their ad­verse ef­fects and short­com­ings, the No­bel As­sem­bly at Karolin­s­ka In­sti­tutet ap­plauds the two sci­en­tists for achiev­ing land­mark dis­cov­er­ies in the fight against can­cer.

For more than 100 years sci­en­tists at­tempt­ed to en­gage the im­mune sys­tem in the fight against can­cer. Un­til the sem­i­nal dis­cov­er­ies by the two lau­re­ates, progress in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment was mod­est. Check­point ther­a­py has now rev­o­lu­tion­ized can­cer treat­ment and has fun­da­men­tal­ly changed the way we view how can­cer can be man­aged.

Al­li­son went on to spear­head the de­vel­op­ment of an CT­LA-block­ing an­ti­body called ip­il­i­mum­ab, which is now sold by Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb un­der the brand name Yer­voy to treat metasta­t­ic melanoma. He con­tin­ues to be ac­tive in a new wave of biotechs search­ing for drugs elud­ed by check­point ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing Neon Ther­a­peu­tics and Jounce Ther­a­peu­tics.

Al­most three decades af­ter Al­li­son and Hon­jo first made their dis­cov­er­ies in the lab, check­point With six PD-1/L1 agents now on the mar­ket — Re­gen­eron and Sanofi got a quick OK for their lat­est con­tender just this past Fri­day — the glob­al pipeline is brim­ming with at least 163 PD-1/L1 in­hibitors and hun­dreds more im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug can­di­dates, many tar­get­ing CT­LA-4 in com­bo stud­ies.

A high-pro­file fig­ure at sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ences, Al­li­son has a le­gion of friends and col­leagues hap­py to cheer the news.

I’m just thrilled for him, as a friend and as a sci­en­tist,” said Fred Rams­dell, Ph.D., vice pres­i­dent of re­search at the Park­er In­sti­tute for Can­cer Im­munother­a­py and a col­league of James Al­li­son’s for decades. “It’s re­al­ly grat­i­fy­ing to see that the No­bel Com­mit­tee chose to award the prize for the fun­da­men­tal re­search that ul­ti­mate­ly led to a par­a­digm shift in clin­i­cal can­cer ther­a­py that has saved so many lives.”

Al­li­son and Hon­jo will share the prize — rough­ly $1 mil­lion (9 mil­lion Swedish kro­nor) — and de­liv­er lec­tures in Stock­holm at the No­bel cer­e­mo­ny this De­cem­ber.


Im­age: Jim Al­li­son and Tasuku Hon­jo. MD AN­DER­SON, UCSD

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

State bat­tles over mifepri­s­tone ac­cess could tie the FDA to any post-Roe cross­roads

As more than a dozen states are now readying so-called “trigger” laws to kick into effect immediate abortion bans following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, these laws, in the works for more than a decade in some states, will likely kick off even more legal battles as states seek to restrict the use of prescription drug-based abortions.

Since Friday’s SCOTUS opinion to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, reproductive rights lawyers at Planned Parenthood and other organizations have already challenged these trigger laws in Utah and Louisiana. According to the Guttmacher Institute, other states with trigger laws that could take effect include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

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Deborah Dunsire, Lundbeck CEO

Af­ter a 5-year re­peat PhI­II so­journ, Lund­beck and Ot­su­ka say they're fi­nal­ly ready to pur­sue OK to use Rex­ul­ti against Alzheimer's ag­i­ta­tion

Five years after Lundbeck and their longtime collaborators at Otsuka turned up a mixed set of Phase III data for Rexulti as a treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia-related agitation, they’ve come through with a new pivotal trial success they believe will finally put them on the road to an approval at the FDA. And if they’re right, some analysts believe they’re a short step away from adding more than $500 million in annual sales for the drug, already approved in depression and schizophrenia.

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A Mer­ck part­ner is sucked in­to the fi­nan­cial quag­mire as key lender calls in a note

Another biotech standing on shaky financial legs has fallen victim to the bears.

Merck partner 4D Pharma has reported that a key lender, Oxford Finance, shoved the UK company into administration after calling in a $14 million loan they couldn’t immediately make good on. Trading in their stock was halted with a market cap that had fallen to a mere £30 million.

“Despite the very difficult prevailing market conditions,” 4D reported on Friday, the biotech had been making progress on finding some new financing and turned to Oxford with an alternative late on Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Members of the G7 from left to right: Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden and G7 na­tions of­fer funds for vac­cine and med­ical prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing project in Sene­gal

Amidst recently broader vaccine manufacturing initiatives from the EU and European companies, the G7 summit in the mountains of Bavaria has brought about some positive news for closing vaccine and medical product manufacturing gaps around the globe.

According to a statement from the White House, the G7 leaders have formally launched the partnership for global infrastructure, PGII. The effort will aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars to deliver infrastructure projects in several sectors including the medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

Fed­er­al judge de­nies Bris­tol My­er­s' at­tempt to avoid Cel­gene share­hold­er law­suit

Some Celgene shareholders aren’t happy with how Bristol Myers Squibb’s takeover went down.

On Friday, a New York federal judge ruled that they have a case against the pharma giant, denying a request to dismiss allegations that it purposely slow-rolled Breyanzi’s approval to avoid paying out $6.4 billion in contingent value rights (CVR).

When Bristol Myers put down $74 billion to scoop up Celgene back in 2019, liso-cel — the CAR-T lymphoma treatment now marketed as Breyanzi — was supposedly one of the centerpieces of the deal. After going back and forth on negotiations for about six months, BMS put $6.4 billion into a CVR agreement that required an FDA approval for Zeposia, Breyanzi and Abecma, each by an established date.

Chris Anzalone, Arrowhead CEO

Take­da, Ar­row­head spot­light da­ta from small tri­al show­ing RNAi works in a rare liv­er con­di­tion

Almost two years after Takeda wagered $300 million cash to partner with Arrowhead on an RNAi therapy for a rare disease, the companies are spelling out Phase II data that they believe put them one step closer to their big dreams.

In a small, open label study involving only 16 patients who had liver disease associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), Arrowhead’s candidate — fazirsiran, previously ARO-AAT — spurred substantial reductions in accumulated mutant AAT protein in the liver, a hallmark of the condition. Investigators also tracked improvements in symptoms, with seven out of 12 who received the high, 200 mg dose seeing regression of liver fibrosis.

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Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Bat­tle-test­ed biotech ex­ecs turn to an ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try god­fa­ther for some board­room guid­ance

Little Sling Therapeutics out of Ann Arbor, MI may be just a few days out of the starting gate from the announcement of its $35 million launch round, but execs are positioning themselves within clear sight of a key clinical finish line. And they’re revving up with an experienced player to help guide them on the way.

The biotech is putting out word this morning that Faheem Hasnain has agreed to godfather the drug developer as chairman of the board, adding a measured dash of seasoning at a point when most biotechs are still struggling with the embryo stage.

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