French government backs Biomunex immunotherapy project, awards it close to €3m

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Spectral-Design
© GettyImages/Spectral-Design

Related tags Immunotherapy solid tumor antibodies T cell

Biomunex Pharmaceuticals, a French company focused on the discovery and development of bi- and multi-specific antibodies, sees its BiXAb5 project receive nearly €3m (US$3.5m) in the form of a grant from the French government.

Led by Biomunex alongside Paris-based Institut Curie and GTP Bioways, the BiXAb5 non-conventional T cell redirection project seeks to create breakthrough immunotherapy approach to cancer treatment based on bispecific antibodies; it has a total budget of €5.6m.

It was one of nine projects awarded grants by the French authorities, from a total of 90 applications, as part of its Grand Défi Biomédicament​ scheme.

The partners are employing redirection technology targeting a subpopulation of non-conventional T cells; an earlier research tie-up between Institut Curie and Biomunex resulted in a patent application filing covering a universal non-conventional T cell redirection approach.

The project is based on bispecific antibodies generated by the BiXAb platform, which was discovered and developed by Biomunex. This next-generation ‘plug and play’ proprietary platform can quickly and cost-effectively produce bispecific antibodies from any pair of monoclonal antibodies as building blocks, with minimal engineering. 

Safe and effective immunotherapy 

This work could open the door to an immunotherapy that is safer and more effective than current T cell redirection immunotherapies such as CD3 or gamma-delta. Pierre-Emmanuel Gerard, CEO of Biomunex, told BioPharma-Reporter why that is the case:

“BiXAb5 is targeting a non-conventional T cell sub-population which, when redirected to engage cancer cells, can exhibit significant cytotoxic capabilities. Furthermore, engagement and activation of this non-conventional T-cell subset do not cause extensive cytokine release - which would suggest a safer clinical profile. In addition, BiXAb5, unlike classical T-cell engagers, is restricted to one subset of T-cells, and does not bind regulatory T cells which may have a negative impact on overall tumor control​.”

He said the treatment approach could also be used to treat both solid tumors and hematological malignancies: “The non-conventional T-cell sub-population targeted by BiXAb5, is naturally resident in blood and several tissues; it has the propensity, due to expression of an array of chemokine receptors, to enter tissues and so has the potential to infiltrate solid tumors with greater efficiency. Therefore, it is potentially a T cell sub-population of choice to treat both solid tumors and hematological malignancies.”

Selection criteria

The decisive criteria that led to the selection of the project by the French government included the level of maturity of the technology, the strong business model with Biomunex as project leader, the capacity to generate private investments and create jobs, the integration into the French biotech sector and the medical needs covered by this project.

To support the project, the company is creating 10 new positions, in the short term.

In addition to this unique immunotherapy, Biomunex also develops a pipeline of innovative bispecific antibodies. One of these antibodies was licensed to the Swiss biopharma company, Onward Therapeutics, in February 2021, where it is being developed for use in the treatment of hematological malignancies. Other programs are being developed in collaboration with a number of academic and private partners, with the goal of starting the clinical development of several BiXAb antibodies from 2023.

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