Cancer treatment illustrates UI, private sector partnership

09/30/05

University of Iowa officials, along with state government leaders and representatives from Coley Pharmaceutical Group of Wellesley, Mass., today celebrated a milestone in Coley's development of a cancer treatment, CPG 7909. This promising anti-cancer agent is based on intellectual property discovered at the UI.

Last March, the UI Research Foundation (UIRF), the entity charged with managing inventions created at the UI, announced it would receive approximately $6.75 million following a license agreement between Coley and Pfizer for development and worldwide commercialization of CPG 7909 (also known as ProMune, or PF-3512676), a cancer treatment that was developed using UI technology. Coley senior executives, including Arthur Krieg, M.D., co-inventor of this technology, chief scientific officer at Coley and a former UI professor of internal medicine, were in Iowa City to meet with UI officials and community and state leaders to discuss CPG 7909's status and potential as a treatment for lung and possibly other cancers.

"This is a shining example of how the public benefits from new knowledge generated at the University of Iowa," said UI President David Skorton. "This promising cancer treatment is a direct result of intellectual property developed in our research laboratories over the past decade that, by partnering this scientific discovery with the private sector, now has the potential to help cancer patients in Iowa and around the world."

Jean Robillard, M.D., dean of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, lauded the interdisciplinary research effort that went into the development of CPG 7909. "This potential new treatment is possible only through the efforts of many individuals from multiple disciplines, and I am especially proud of our cancer specialists for the role they played, and continue to play, in developing and testing this therapy."

He added that while the success of the UI-Coley partnership enhances the University's reputation, it also provides additional benefits in terms of new research grants, educational opportunities and other public institution-private sector collaborations.

George Weiner, M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, and one of the co-inventors of the licensed immunotherapy technology, and his colleagues have participated in developing CPG 7909 as a potential treatment.

"Work in our laboratories and clinics -- and from colleagues around the world -- suggests CPG 7909 may be a very useful component of treatment for cancer using a variety of approaches," Weiner said. "We are very excited that this research could lead to better cancer treatments for patients."

CPG 7909 uses short, synthetic DNA-like molecules, known as CpG, to activate an anti-tumor immune system response. Krieg first described CpG in the mid-1990s as a result of pioneering research in his lab at the UI. CpGs target Toll-like Receptors in or on immune system cells. These Toll-like Receptors, or TLRs, detect molecules that are unique to foreign invaders, or pathogens, and then direct the body's immune response. Coley has developed CPG 7909 to induce and sustain both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system to act in promoting effective anti-tumor responses.

Last May, Coley announced positive results from the company's randomized, Phase II clinical study in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) demonstrating improved anti-tumor response and survival benefit. Phase III clinical trials are being planned by Pfizer for NSCLC and other types of cancers. Since its development, CPG 7909 has been evaluated in multiple clinical studies involving more than 400 cancer patients worldwide.

A portfolio of CpG patents, covering the composition of the materials and a range of therapeutic uses, has been exclusively licensed to Coley by the UIRF. In addition to the $6.75 million payment the UIRF has received to date, the UI could earn millions more in license fees and royalties over time, based on the successful development and commercialization of CPG 7909.

Several groups across the UI campus will benefit from the money received by the UI as a result of the Coley/Pfizer agreement, including the revenue shares distributed to individual inventors and their respective academic units, plus an institution-wide research enrichment fund administered at the discretion of the UI Vice President for Research. The UIRF has also received a share of the earnings to fund its continued operations.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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