The partners will conduct human clinical proof of concept studies, using the Sofusa technology, a drug delivery platform that delivers biologic therapies through the skin and directly into the lymphatic system.
Sorrento acquired that platform from Kimberly-Clark Corporation in July 2018. It consists of proprietary nano-structured microneedles designed to access the lymphatic capillaries just below the epidermis.
The California headquartered company believes the technology has the potential to improve the efficacy and safety of immuno-oncology therapies; targeting delivery to the lymphatics should enable reduced dosing as compared to traditional systemic infusions or subcutaneous injections, it added.
Boosting efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors
The first study arising out of the research alliance is a Phase 1b evaluation of the platform to deliver ipilimumab, a checkpoint inhibitor drug that targets CTLA-4, in patients with melanoma.
“Checkpoint therapies have shown good results in some patients; however, response rates are still low, and this may be due to poor exposure to drug targets which reside in lymph nodes. By delivering checkpoint therapies directly to the lymphatics, we expect to see an increase in clinical response and potentially a decrease in systemic side effects,” said Mike Royal, CMO, Sorrento Therapeutics.
This agreement builds upon a previously announced exclusive deal between both companies, whereby Sorrento licensed Mayo Clinic’s antibody-drug-nanoparticle albumin-bound immune Complex platform technology.
The biotech's portfolio of immune-oncology platform assets includes immune checkpoint inhibitors, bispecific antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) as well as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and dimeric antigen receptor (DAR) based cellular therapies, as well as oncolytic viruses.
NK based cell therapy research
Earlier this month, Sorrento announced an agreement with research groups at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden; that alliance is aimed at producing novel cell-based therapeutics using natural killer (NK) cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Under that research tie-up, Sorrento will provide expertise in core chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and dimeric antigen receptor (DAR) technologies. It said the research assets critical to this program are its CAR and DAR constructs identified through its antibody library and previously validated as determinants of cell-based therapy potency against hematologic and solid tumors. Multiple product candidates will be developed and tested in the initial phase of the planned work, with the goal that the candidate products will qualify for further human clinical trials.