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Ludwig Cancer Research and University of Oxford launch cancer immunotherapy spinout

Jul 9, 2015
  • Investor Jim Mellon, an Oxford alumnus, is backing a new Oxford spinout
  • The company is planning clinical trials to test immunotherapy candidates in melanoma patients in conjunction with approved checkpoint inhibitors.

July 9, 2015 - Isis Innovation, the University of Oxford’s technology commercialisation company, and Ludwig Cancer Research are proud to announce the launch of a new spinout company, iOx Therapeutics. iOx Therapeutics will develop a novel cancer immunotherapy discovered through a collaboration between Ludwig Cancer Research and Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo, the director of the MRC Human Immunology Unit within the University of Oxford’s Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.

Since 2003, Professor Cerundolo, supported by funding from Ludwig Cancer Research, has led a research team working in collaboration with Professor Gurdyal Besra and Dr. Liam Cox of the University of Birmingham and Professor Richard Schmidt of the University of Konstanz. This team discovered multiple synthetic lipid compounds, now under development by iOx, which activate iNKT cells. A large body of evidence suggests that iNKT cells play an important role in anti-tumour immune responses and could prove highly effective in combination with other immunotherapies. 

“Preclinical studies of our iNKT-activating compounds have been extremely promising,” said Professor Cerundolo. “We’ve been able to show that these molecules can halt the progression of tumours in animal models. I am very excited to see them moving toward the clinic, and gratified that our research could prove to be of benefit to cancer patients.”

“The new immune checkpoint inhibitors recently approved by regulatory agencies, such as anti-PD-1 antibodies, sabotage the strategies used by tumour cells to suppress the immune system and so induce potent anti-tumour immune responses in many patients,” said Dr. Jonathan Skipper, Ludwig’s executive director of technology development. “There is good reason to expect that iOX’s iNKT agonists could significantly improve these responses, and we look forward to seeing the results of their clinical evaluation.” 

The company has discussed plans for a first human trial with the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The trial will be run by Professor Mark Middleton, director of the Oxford Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Jim Mellon, an Oxford alumnus, has invested in the company through SalvaRx, an oncology-focused investment vehicle that provides capital and drug development expertise to support emerging technologies and companies.

Isis Innovation Head of Technology Transfer, Life Sciences Dr. Adam Stoten said, “The field of cancer immunotherapy is moving forward with unprecedented momentum and we’re delighted to support Professor Cerundolo and his team in their goal of finding new and better cancer treatments.”

Professor Cerundolo’s research has also been funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and the Wellcome Trust.

Media enquiries to:

Renate Krelle
Isis Innovation Ltd
renate.krelle@isis.ox.ac.uk
T: +44(0)1865280867

Rachel Steinhardt
Ludwig Cancer Research
rsteinhardt@licr.org
T: +1 (212) 450-1582

About Isis Innovation

Isis Innovation is the research and technology commercialisation company of the University of Oxford. We provide access to technology from Oxford researchers through intellectual property licensing, spin-out company formation and material sales, and to academic expertise through Oxford University Consulting. 

Isis is the most prolific university patent filer in the UK and is ranked 1st in the UK for university spin-outs, having created more than 100 new companies in 25 years. In the last financial year we completed 503 licenses and consulting agreements. Isis Enterprise, our innovation management consultancy, signed 85 deals with university, government, and industrial clients from offices around the world. 

Isis was named “Technology Transfer Unit of the Year 2014” by Global University Venturing.

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