Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Western Oncolytics announced today that they have entered into a development collaboration, license and option agreement to advance Western Oncolytics’ novel oncolytic vaccinia virus, WO-12. Oncolytic viruses are viruses engineered to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells, which subsequently elicits anti-cancer immune responses. This collaboration in oncolytic virus development adds another novel technology platform to Pfizer’s cancer vaccine efforts and provides an additional tool to bolster its immuno-oncology portfolio.
Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer and Western Oncolytics will collaborate on preclinical and clinical development of WO-12 through Phase I trials. Following completion of Phase I trials, Pfizer has an exclusive option to acquire WO-12. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“Our goal is to combine WO-12 with our portfolio of promising investigational immunotherapies to explore how these novel combinations could help further enhance the body’s immune response in fighting cancer cells,” said James Merson, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Vaccine Immunotherapeutics at Pfizer. “We believe that the real advances in immuno-oncology will come from novel combinations, and cancer fighting viruses and vaccines could play a key role in helping transform cancer treatment and potentially enable us to treat more patients.”
WO-12 is a preclinical investigational oncolytic virus. As an in vivo vaccine, it has the potential to be delivered directly to the tumor (intratumoral) or intravenously. More specifically, it is a virus engineered to replicate primarily in cancer cells while delivering several therapeutic genes that modulate the immune system to enhance efficacy against a range of cancers. By replicating inside cancer cells, it is designed to both kill the cancer cell and releases tumor antigens that direct the immune system to recognize the antigens and kill additional cancer cells. WO-12 has potential applications across multiple tumor types.
“We believe this collaboration will create a unique opportunity to accelerate and expand the clinical testing of WO-12 as well as to examine potential combinations with other immunotherapies in the Pfizer portfolio,” said Steve Thorne, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Western Oncolytics and inventor of WO-12.
Kurt Rote, CEO of Western Oncolytics, added, “We have been very impressed with the expertise and commitment to success from everyone at Pfizer, and are excited to be partnering this promising therapy with a shared vision of improving the way patients are treated.”