BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - The technology management company Medical Marketing International (MMI) has formed a new joint venture, Genvax Ltd., to develop a cancer vaccine technology based on using tetanus toxin as an immune potentiator.

The company, a spinout from Southampton University, has three clinical trials in progress funded by cancer research charities, and has two more due to start in late 2004 or early 2005.

MMI's investment amount was not given because the company is in a closed period, but MMI CEO David Best told BioWorld International: "We are initially paying to register all the patents, and will fund all the clinical trials going forward. MMI will own 50 percent of Genvax." The other half belongs to the scientific founders Freda Stevenson, professor of immunology, and Christian Ottensmeier, consultant in medical oncology, both of Southampton University.

Genvax's technology platform uses a subsection of tetanus toxin fused to cancer antigens to stimulate an antitumor immune response. The tetanus subunit is proprietary to Genvax, as is the method for linking it to the cancer antigens.

The current studies are in 25 patients with follicular lymphoma, a common form of B-cell lymphoma, and two small pilot studies in bone marrow cancer, with three patients in each.

Those studies are using bespoke antigens taken from each patient. Best said Genvax is investigating methodologies for making such bespoke products in batches to reduce manufacturing costs. It also has permission for trials in prostate and colon cancer that will use generic antigens.

The lymphoma trial began in 2001 and the last patient was recruited early in 2004. Full results are expected by March 2005. To date, positive immune responses have been mounted in half the patients evaluated.

The formation of Genvax is important for MMI as it gives the company its first products in clinical development. It expects to take products to the end of Phase II before looking for partners.

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