UCL and ARGENX Collaboration Lands a Major Deal in the Field of Immuno-Oncology with AbbVie

Apr 21, 2016, 02:00 ET from Sopartec and UCL

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE and BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

ARGENX announced today the signing of a major deal with AbbVie in the field of immuno-oncology. This deal is the result of a highly productive collaboration between ARGENX, a biotech company, and the teams of Professors Pierre Coulie and Sophie Lucas of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), who are recognized worldwide as leaders in the field of immuno-oncology. This collaboration has resulted in an innovative therapeutic approach to stimulate the immune system of cancer patients.  

The license agreement between ARGENX and Sopartec, the technology transfer office of the UCL, allowed ARGENX to sublicense its rights to the outcome of the collaboration with UCL. The terms of the sublicense agreement include upfront and milestone payments as well as royalties on future product sales.

The expertise and research of the teams of Professors Pierre Coulie and Sophie Lucas, as well as their close collaboration with ARGENX, were key for the conclusion of this agreement.

The research underpinning the collaboration was initiated in 2004 at the de Duve Institute of the UCL and at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR), and was partially financed by WELBIO. It led to the identification of a new immuno-oncology target. This target is a protein known as GARP. Inhibition of GARP stimulates immune responses and could thus represent a novel approach for cancer immunotherapy.

The collaboration between the teams of UCL and ARGENX started in 2013 in order to identify human antibodies that inhibit GARP function. A human anti-GARP antibody candidate has since been selected for further development.

Professors Pierre Coulie and Sophie Lucas comment: "This collaboration brings in the know-how of ARGENX and their partner AbbVie to carry our recently discovered approach of cancer immunotherapy into clinical development."

Vincent Blondel, rector UCL highlights that: "The success of this technology transfer demonstrates the top quality research conducted by the teams of UCL and de Duve Institute. The close partnership developed with LICR and WELBIO opens new avenues for potential novel therapies for cancer patients."

Philippe Durieux, co-director of the Louvain Technology Transfer Office and CEO of Sopartec, adds : "We are extremely pleased to collaborate with ARGENX and AbbVie in the clinical development and commercialization of immunotherapeutics. This collaboration is at the heart of our mission : detection and transfer of new technologies and innovative therapeutic interventions to combat diseases such as cancer."

About GARP 

GARP is a protein present on the surface of regulatory T lymphocytes (hereafter " Tregs "). The function of Tregs is to inhibit immune responses in order to prevent unwanted auto-immune disorders. But in patients suffering from cancer, Tregs play a negative role by suppressing immune responses needed to destroy cancer cells. GARP allows Tregs to execute their immunosuppressive action by triggering the production of an inhibitory messenger, a cytokine known as "TGF-beta". The team of Sophie Lucas has developed a compound that blocks GARP, thus preventing the release of the Treg messenger and the inhibition of anti-tumor immune responses. This compound could serve as a novel immunotherapeutic approach for cancer.

About UCL 

Founded in 1425, the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) is one of Europe´s oldest universities. It offers hundreds of educational programmes to more than 29,000 students from some 120 countries. UCL is ranked 149th in the QS World University rankings (2015-2016), 101-151th in the Shanghai rankings 2014 and 167th in the Times Higher Education rankings (2015-2016), making it the number one university in the French Community of Belgium. Education, research and service to society are the three fundamental missions of UCL. Anchored in a tradition of excellence, they have always opened up UCL to its region, Europe and the world. Research is closely linked to learning and teaching and is the raison d´être and a major strength of the UCL. Fundamental and applied research at UCL is the day-to-day activity of more than 2800 responsible and passionate academics and scientists. UCL is convinced that short and long term research constitutes one of the best investments for economic, social and cultural growth.

More information: http://www.uclouvain.be

About de Duve Institute 

The de Duve Institute is an international center for fundamental research in the biomedical field located in Brussels, on the medical campus of the UCL. Forty years after its creation by Professeur Christian de  Duve, Nobel Price Laureate for medicine in 1974, the Institute hosts approximately 250 scientists and technicians of the UCL and of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, active in different domains covering genetics, immunology, cancer, developmental biology, bacteriology and inherited metabolic diseases. A large number of collaborations have been established with medical teams from the St Luc hospital and with other research groups in Belgium and beyond.

More information : http://www.deduveinstitute.be

About LTTO-Sopartec 

The LTTO covers the entire technology transfer process: funding of research, identification of inventions in the laboratories, protection and management of intellectual property and technological maturation and commercialization (via licenses and/or spin-offs). More particularly, SOPARTEC coordinates the management of licensing and the evolution towards maturity of UCL's spin-off projects. Over 70 spin-offs, generating today more than 2.000 jobs, have been created partly or completely based on the results of research conducted at UCL. These include Ion Beam Application (IBA), IRIS Group, IBT, Telemis, Viridaxis, Promethera, Xylowatt, Keemotion, Iteos Therapeutics, Novadip Biosciences, SmartNodes, TESSARES, 3D-Side, and Axinesis.

More information: http://www.ltto.com

About WELBIO 

WELBIO is an inter-university life sciences research institute based in Wallonia, Belgium. WELBIO aims at promoting scientific excellence in fundamental research and translating scientific achievements into biotechnology applications.

WELBIO was founded in 2009 as a non-profit organization funded by the Walloon government. Twenty-two WELBIO research projects are currently supported through the Fund for Strategic Fundamental Research (F.R.S.-FNRS) in three universities from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. WELBIO investigators conduct innovative research in various domains such as cancer biology, neurobiology, immunology, genetics, developmental biology, metabolism and microbiology. Their scientific discoveries could lead to the development of new drugs, treatments or diagnostic tools (e.g. in cancer, neuropsychiatry, metabolic or inflammatory diseases, neurodegenerative disorders or antimicrobial resistance) as well as to biotechnological applications.

To develop the valorization potential of the WELBIO projects, individualized support to WELBIO investigators is provided from the outset of their fundamental research project in close collaboration with their university Knowledge Transfer Office.  

Detailed information can be found on http://welbio.org

SOURCE Sopartec and UCL