In order to improve cancer treatment, scientists have been searching for unique targets for immuno-therapeutics to ramp up the fight against cancer. One such target that has generated a lot of buzz is PD1.
What is PD1?
PD1(Programmed cell death protein 1) is a receptor expressed on the surface of cells in the immune system and functions to regulate their activity. It functionally quiets the immune system and limits the activation of T and B cells. Much like the function of another hot immunotherapy target CTLA4.
How is this useful?
Because of it’s function, PD1 has become a popular target for therapies that ramp up the immune system to fight off cancer. PD1 also has a variety of ligands that bind its receptor and have also become targets for immunotherapies.
Who is doing it?
Because of it’s potential, there are many companies each with their own therapy targeted to PD1. The list includes several giants of the pharmaceutical industry including; Merck, BMS, AstraZeneca, and Roche. However among the giants is another player, Curetech, an Israeli company has their own targeted antibody.
Who are Curetech?
Curetech is a clinical stage biotech company based in Israel and a portfolio company of Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd. The company previously had an agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals that was subsequently dropped during former Teva CEO’s, Jeremy Levin, “trimming of the fat”. The drop was largely based on the fact that there are so many large players in the field creating challenges for a smaller company in the field.
However, since being dropped Curetech has released positive Phase II study data from for their agent, CT-011, for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. The efficacy study included 103 patients in the US and Israel who had failed to respond to previous therapies. The study’s primary endpoint was the objective response rate in the number of tumors, which showed a response of 10%. The secondary endpoint, the 12-month survival rate following the study, was more promising at 65%. This is competitive with the other industry players who report 60% response rates.
What are Curetech’s Challenges?
Without any overtly significant difference between their answer and others in the area Curetech faces challenges in competition. It will be difficult for a smaller company to market and sell a drug with equivalents backed by more firepower. If their drug can show superior efficacy or beat the others to market then it has a better chance to make a splash. However, despite Levin’s assessment their product still remains an attractive target for acquisition for a larger player that wishes to enter the ring in the PD1 market.
We will be keeping an eye out on further news/study data to see what develops and if their product begins to separate itself in a significant way.