CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oncorus, Inc., an oncolytic virus company focused on driving innovation to transform outcomes for cancer patients, announced today the nomination of ONCR-177, a next-generation locally administered oncolytic virus clinical candidate for multiple solid tumor indications. ONCR-177 utilizes Oncorus’ proprietary, next-generation oncolytic herpes simplex virus (oHSV) platform. In addition, Oncorus has created a unique synthetic oncolytic virus platform, which will enable the company to develop multiple oncolytic viruses for repeated, systemic administration. Proprietary innovations in potency and safety engineered by Oncorus into both platforms enable best-of-class potential for the company’s portfolio programs and the opportunity to pursue multiple cancer types.
“While we’ve seen early promise of the ability of oncolytic virus therapies to improve the response rates of checkpoint inhibitors, many patients still do not respond to these agents. Our team is committed to changing this fact,” said Theodore (Ted) Ashburn, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Oncorus. “We are driving multiple proprietary innovations across two distinct platforms that are enabling a portfolio of oncolytic virus product candidates with best-in-class potential. We intend to become the leaders in realizing the full potential of this exciting treatment modality to dramatically transform outcomes for cancer patients.”
Dr. Ashburn will give an update on the company’s pipeline and business at a presentation today at 7:30 AM EST at the Piper Jaffray 30th Annual Health Care Conference in New York City, highlighting key accomplishments from 2018 to date and outlining near- and long-term value drivers for the company.
Key 2018 Accomplishments:
- Nomination of lead clinical candidate, ONCR-177. Oncorus recently nominated a lead clinical candidate, ONCR-177, a locally administered oncolytic virus therapy. ONCR-177 features key innovations engineered into Oncorus’ next-generation oHSV platform, including the largest number of immunomodulatory payloads in the class. These payloads include IL-12, FLT3L, CCL4 and antagonists of the clinically proven checkpoint inhibitors, CTLA-4 and PD-1, to enable the recruitment and activation of T cells, natural killer (NK) cells and dendritic cells and increase the likelihood of productive anti-tumor responses. ONCR-177 is also a fully-replication competent virus in that it retains the ability to expresses γ34.5, which allows the virus to replicate in the presence of host antiviral immune responses, a feature unique among oHSVs that have been developed to date or are being developed currently. ONCR-177 also features Oncorus’ proprietary microRNA-attenuation strategy, which leverages the differential expression of microRNA sequences to allow robust viral replication in tumor cells, while preventing replication in healthy tissue. In addition, Oncorus has developed a complementary and orthogonal approach to protecting neurons from viral infection by engineering mutations in UL37, an HSV protein, which prevent both axonal retrograde transport and latency.
The company intends to file an investigational new drug application (IND) and start a first-in-human study by the end of 2019 in order to evaluate ONCR-177 in multiple solid tumor indications.
“The promise of oncolytic viruses as a therapeutic tool in the fight against cancer has been clear for some time. However, a fundamental challenge to date has been the need to sacrifice potency to ensure safety,” said Christophe Quéva, Ph.D., Oncorus’ Chief Scientific Officer. “Our team has been working diligently to enhance our oHSV platform in a number of innovative ways to successfully overcome this ‘potency versus safety’ tradeoff. We are very encouraged by our progress to date and look forward to seeing how our innovations improve outcomes in clinical studies involving ONCR-177.”
- Achieved in vivo proof-of-concept for synthetic virus program for repeat, systemic administration. Oncorus has made notable progress advancing its research programs for systemic intravenous delivery for its breakthrough synthetic virus platform. Systemic delivery of oncolytic viruses offers the promise of targeting indications not amenable to locally administered oncolytic virus therapy such as cancers of the lung. The company recently achieved in vivo proof-of-concept for its systemic virus platform and aims to nominate a lead clinical candidate synthetic virus by the end of 2019.
- Solidified leadership with key hires. Oncorus made key management hires in 2018 that helped expand the company’s expertise, solidify its leadership team, and position it for rapid growth. In September, the company announced that Theodore (Ted) T. Ashburn, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed President and CEO. Dr. Ashburn brings a wealth of experience in immuno-oncology drug development and commercialization to Oncorus. Mitchell H. Finer, Ph.D., Oncorus’ co-founder, founding CEO and MPM Capital Managing Director, assumed the role of Executive Chairman. Other key hires include John Goldberg, M.D., Senior Vice President, Clinical Development; Brett Belongia, Ph.D., Senior Director of CMC; Brian Haines, Ph.D., Senior Director Pharmacology, Toxicology; and Tooba Cheema, Ph.D., Director of Biomarkers and Translational Medicine.
- Closed the third and final tranche of Series A round of financing. Oncorus closed a third and final tranche of its Series A financing, which raised a total of $61.4 million. The company’s blue-chip investor syndicate includes founding investor MPM Capital, as well as MPM’s UBS Oncology Impact Fund (OIM), Deerfield Management, Arkin Bio Ventures, Long March, Astellas and Celgene.
- Continued to build a robust intellectual property (IP) estate. Oncorus continued to pursue a broad IP strategy and augment its current patent estate surrounding its proprietary innovations for both its oHSV and synthetic virus platforms and respective applications.
Oncorus’ key goals and upcoming value drivers include:
- Filing an IND and initiating a first-in-human Phase 1 study involving ONCR-177
- Nominating a lead synthetic virus clinical candidate for repeat systemic administration, and
- Continuing to expand its team with the recruitment of key talent across multiple disciplines
“It’s an exciting time to be in the oncolytic virus therapy space, given the continued progress of this modality and its potential to become an important addition to the arsenal of immuno-oncology therapies available to cancer patients,” said Dr. Finer. “2018 has been a year of important growth for Oncorus on both the scientific and business fronts. We have clear momentum as we approach 2019 and look forward to transitioning into a clinical stage company, progressing our portfolio of best-in-class products and, above all, realizing the promise of oncolytic virus therapy for cancer patients.”
At Oncorus, we are driving innovation to deliver next-generation, best-in-class oncolytic viral therapies to transform outcomes for cancer patients. We are advancing a portfolio of locally and systemically administered oncolytic virus therapies for a broad spectrum of indications with significant unmet needs based on our oncolytic herpes simplex virus (oHSV) and synthetic virus platforms. Our team has engineered proprietary, multidimensional innovations into both platforms to enable us to deliver on the full potential of oncolytic virus therapies to dramatically improve outcomes for cancer patients. Please visit www.oncorus.com to learn more.