Profectus BioSciences and Vyriad have entered into a collaboration to develop oncolytic recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vaccines for cancer immunotherapy.

Through the collaboration, the companies will use their respective rVSV-derived oncolytic and vaccine platform technologies to develop novel cancer drugs.

Vyriad’s rVSV-derived oncolytic viruses are engineered to infect, selectively replicate in, and destroy cancer cells, and Profectus’ rVSV-derived VesiculoVax vaccine vectors are engineered to prime the immune system to generate a robust and durable cellular immune response to promote sustained cancer cell-destroying activity.

“We are confident that this critical alliance will allow us to unleash the full power of oncolytic immunovirotherapy.”

The oncolytic vaccines being developed would selectively destroy tumour cells while boosting patients’ immune systems to continue killing any residual cancer cells that may survive the initial virus attack.

Profectus president Jeffrey Meshulam said: "Vyriad was the first to develop and clinically test rVSV as an oncolytic agent. We look forward to working closely with the Vyriad team to advance innovative new vesiculovirus-based oncolytic vaccines that have clear potential to benefit cancer patients."

Though VSVs are not considered human pathogens, they can be engineered to selectively replicate in tumour cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells.

The oncolytic vesiculoviruses have demonstrated the ability to target and destroy cancer cells while also stimulating the body’s adaptive anti-tumour immune response that directs the immune system to continue killing cancer cells.

This anti-tumour immune response is more powerfully stimulated when the virus has been further engineered to encode a tumour antigen, the companies said.

Vyriad president and CEO Stephen J Russell said: "We are confident that this critical alliance will allow us to unleash the full power of oncolytic immunovirotherapy as a new and highly versatile anticancer modality."

The first human clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines would begin next year.

Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.