Abbie booth at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), June 2019.
Abbie booth at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), June 2019.

Chicago based research and development-focused biopharmaceutical company AbbVie confirmed that it has acquired Seattle-based Mavupharma, a privately held biopharmaceutical company focused on novel approaches to selectively target the STING (STimulator of INterferon Genes) pathway, leveraging the innate immune system to treat cancer.

STING pathway signaling plays an important role in the generation of an immune response directed at tumors, and enhancing STING signaling has shown promise in a variety of tumor models. As confirmed in multiple preclinical cancer models, STING pathway stimulation has the potential to increase the susceptibility of tumors and broaden treatment options for patients.

“AbbVie’s vision in oncology is to advance breakthrough areas of science leading to a strong pipeline of innovative cancer therapies,” said Steve Davidsen, Ph.D., vice president of oncology discovery, AbbVie.

“Mavupharma’s platform has the potential to further our immuno-oncology portfolio and assist in the development of transformative medicines for patients,” Davidsen said.

Clinical trials
Earlier this year Mavupharma selected MAVU-104 for it’s clinical development program. This clinical candidate is a first-in-class, orally active, small molecule inhibitor of ENPP1, a phosphodiesterase (enzyme) that negatively regulates the STING pathway. Inhibiting ENPP1 activity with MAVU-104 allows for highly controlled enhancement of STING signaling in all tumors and lymph nodes without the need for any injections.

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“With our approach, which focuses on blocking a key negative regulator of the STING pathway, as opposed to directly stimulating STING itself, the degree and duration of innate immune activation are tunable, which avoids both overstimulation of the pathway and high levels of cytokine release,” stated Mike Gallatin, Ph.D., Mavupharma’s president and co-founder.

“Having selected our first immuno-oncology drug candidate, we are now focused on the path to IND for MAVU-104, which we expect to file in the second half of 2019,” Gallatin added.

Significant advantages
Mavupharma’s approach may have significant advantages over other developmental therapies that stimulate the STING pathway. Published studies on the direct STING agonists in clinical development show that these therapies are administered via direct injection into the tumor(s) and may induce release of pro-inflammatory cytokines into systemic circulation, which has been associated with side effects.

Previously, Mavupharma presented data at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) 2018 meeting showing that ENPP1 inhibition leads to tumor shrinkage and can be combined with other immunotherapies to induce long-term cures and durable immunologic memory in mouse models of cancer.

Leadership approach
“AbbVie has built a leadership position in oncology and their world-class capabilities will enable the accelerated development of our pipeline of STING modulators,” said Michael Gallatin, Ph.D., former president and a co-founder of Mavupharma.

“We made tremendous strides in developing our novel STING modulators and advancing MAVU-104 towards the clinic. We are confident in AbbVie’s ability to continue to advance this exciting science for patients,” Gregory Dietsch, Ph.D, former chief scientific officer and co-founder of Mavupharma concluded.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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