France-headquartered Ipsen has expanded its ongoing oncology research partnership with Marengo Therapeutics to advance precision T cell engagers (TCE) using TriSTAR, Marengo’s antibody fusion platform.

TriSTAR is based on Marengo’s library of proprietary antibodies that target germline-encoded variable Vβ regions of the T cell receptor (TCR).

According to Marengo, its TriSTAR-derived TCEs may have the potential to overcome the limited efficacy of traditional TCEs in targeting cold tumours due to poor T cell quality and exhaustion. The companies are still in the preclinical stage with these candidates.

The latest collaboration between the companies will involve the use of TriSTAR to reinvigorate and mobilise selective Vβ T cells to boost anti-tumour activity in patients with traditionally difficult-to-treat cold tumours.

Cold tumour types such as ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers have a low response rate due to the limited presence of T cells.

“Through Marengo’s next-generation TriSTAR platform, we have the potential to unlock the power of the immune system, activating a wider pool of T cells to eradicate tumours that traditionally have a weak response to T cell immunotherapies,” explained Ipsen SVP of research and external innovation, David Jenkins.

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In 2022, Ipsen and Marengo entered a $1.6bn strategic partnership to advance two precision immuno-oncology candidates from Marengo’s Selective T-Cell Activation Repertoire (STAR) platform.

Whereas TriSTAR is designed for tumours that are unlikely to respond to immunotherapy, the STAR platform enhances antibodies with T cell costimulatory signals to boost the immune response in tumours that are likely to respond to immunotherapy and have high T cell activity.

The development of the first drug candidate from this first stage of collaboration, a novel TCR Vβ bifunctional selective T cell activator molecule for solid tumour treatment, was announced in April.

The companies now plan to submit an investigational new drug (IND) application for the unnamed drug to the US Food and Drug Administration, with plans to initiate a Phase I study.

“This new collaboration with Ipsen builds on our clinically validated TCR Vβ platform and our internal work with new TriSTAR T cell engagers that suggest best-in-class potential and the ultimate precision immuno-oncology goal of delivering the right T cells to the right tumour,” said Marengo CEO Zhen Su.

The expansion of its partnership with Marengo follows Ipsen’s recent entry into an exclusive global collaboration with Skyhawk Therapeutics for the discovery and development of new small molecules that can modulate RNA for treating rare neurological disorders in a deal worth up to $1.8bn.