Cellectar climbs (then sinks) on PhII DLBCL data; Vyriad inks deal with Pfizer/Merck KGaA

→ The stock is yo-yoing for Madison, WI-based Cellectar Biosciences $CLRB, which climbed yesterday on news of a Phase II cancer trial and immediately dropped a few percentage points this morning. Yesterday, the company reported that one patient in its Phase II trial had a major improvement in the amount of tumor material in her body — about a 94% reduction. The trial was testing Cellectar’s cancer therapy CLR 131 against certain B-cell malignancies. Today, Cellectar announced further data. Based on a single intravenous administration of CLR 131, the overall response rate was 33% and the disease control rate was 50%. “We are very encouraged by the strong response rates and meaningful reductions in tumor volumes seen in the trial to date in this very sick and heavily pretreated relapsed/refractory DLBCL patient population,” said James Caruso, president and CEO of Cellectar, in a statement. “We believe these data combined with the activity seen to date in other hematologic malignancies further validate the continued development of CLR 131.”

→ Rochester, MN-based Vyriad has lined up a major league collaborator for its oncolytic virus Voyager-V1. Pfizer and Merck KGaA, allied on the PD-L1 drug avelumab, will work on a combo Phase I in solid tumors. These immuno-oncology partnerships have been all the rage over the last couple of years, with a growing number of oncolytics in the pipeline as biotechs look to surpass Amgen’s T-Vec.

Axis Therapeutics, the joint venture Athenex just launched with Xiangxue Life Sciences, has enlisted a local academic partner in their quest to develop TCR-T and CAR-T cell therapies. Athenex founder Johnson Lau has had a working relationship with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he’s an honorary professor, through a couple of licensing deals. Now, he’s stepping up that partnership by helping set up a Joint Center for Immunotherapy. Using the high-affinity T cell receptors developed by Xiangxue, PolyU researchers will provide “full support” on novel technologies and genetics models, with a sharp eye on finding new treatments.

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