Lion assimilated Genesis in the merger late last month and the company says it will focus on developing cancer drugs based on its TIL technology platform originally developed by Dr. Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
In a letter to shareholders, new CEO Dr. Manish Singh said the TIL technology was “a particularly valuable asset because of its potential to cure cancer patients for all solid tumors.”
He continued: “We plan to further develop Genesis' technology, including developing a next generation TIL technology, which should allow for a more potent product and a significantly reduced cost of manufacturing.”
TILs are lymphoid cells that have left the bloodstream and can be grown by culturing single-cell suspensions from tumors in interleukin-2. These can mediate substantial tumour regression in some patients with advanced malignant melanoma, according to an article by Dr. Rosenberg published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Genesis’ pipeline drug Contego has demonstrated robust efficacy in Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, said Singh, with “objective response rates of 49%, significantly exceeding those associated with existing melanoma treatments, including the 11% response rates seen with Yervoy” - Bristol-Myers Squibb’s human monoclonal antibody drug.
Yervoy, approved in the US in 2011, treats late-stage melanoma by binding the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 – a negative regulator of T-Cell activation. According to BMS’s annual report, 2012 worldwide sales of the drug stood at $706m.
Singh also told shareholders the TIL platform “is not only applicable for melanoma but potentially for all solid tumors including ovarian, colorectal, head and neck, and other cancers allowing us to significantly expand the commercial opportunities for our products.”