Created in 2016 by co-founders Prof Laurence Zitvogel and Dr Romain Daillere, EverImmune is a spinoff from French cancer institute, Gustave Roussy; the biotech is looking to harnesses gut microbiota for the development of a theragnostic approach to restoring the response of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs).
It is part of ONCOBIOME, the EU funded program dedicated to research on the microbiome and cancer.
The funds raised in the Series A round will support the clinical development of Oncobax AK (Akkermansia), the company's Live Biotherapeutic Product (LBP), which is used as an oral adjuvant to anticancer immunotherapies. Oncobax AK is designed to safely boost the immune system and restore sensitivity to immunotherapies in primary resistance settings.
The French company is set to start its first Phase I clinical trial on that LBP next year - in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Renal Cell Cancer (RCC), aiming to significantly increase the percentage of patients who will benefit from immunotherapy treatments.
Today, only 30% of NSCLC and 40% of RCC patients respond to immunotherapy treatments, said said Jean-Luc Marsat, chairman, EverImmune.
The Phase 1 trial will begin in April 2022 - it is evaluating safety, he told us. It will be run in two centers in France: Gustave Roussy, and Dijon Bourgogne University Hospital and also in Belgium, at the Jules Bordet Institute.
Phase II then will take place in the summer, again in the two indications, NSCLC and RCC, he added.
Tackling resistance to immunotherapies
Used either in monotherapy or in association with cancer treatments, ICIs are anticancer immunotherapies that have revolutionized the clinical management of many tumor types with previously poor prognosis, including renal and advanced lung cancer. However, responses to ICIs are heterogeneous, with patients showing primary or secondary resistance to them.
The company said it is critical to identify the parameters that modulate the anticancer immunity needed to trigger the effectiveness of anticancer therapeutics.
Evidence accumulated over the past decade has highlighted the role of the gut microbiota in the effectiveness of anticancer immunotherapies in preclinical tumor models, as well as in cancer patients.
Following their discovering of the prognostic role of microbiota composition for the clinical benefit of patients treated with immunotherapy, and the adjuvating role of certain intestinal bacteria to boost antitumor immunity and to counteract primary resistance to treatment, the EverImmune team identified Akkermansia (AK) as a commensal bacteria, modulating the effectiveness of anti-cancer immunotherapies in patients with lung or kidney cancer.
The company reported how it shored up such findings with extensive preclinical research. The data was validated in animal models using tumor-bearing mice. Oncobax AK is an adjuvant for ICI-based immunotherapy that contains a specific strain of Akkermansia.
The biotech has also other bacteria in its pipeline, under development, for use in the treatment of different types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancers.
“A bacterium has been identified for breast cancer and is the property of EverImmune. Patents are already submitted to cover this discovery. The diagnostic test is under development. As for colon cancer, we have several candidates in preclinical test,” explained Marsat.