Australian-based specialist pharmaceutical firm Race Oncology has executed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Swiss-based biotechnology TargImmune Therapeutics to enter a joint venture (JV) between the two companies to develop new and improved cancer therapies.

The new 50:50 JV is to be called Race Immunotherapeutics (RITX) and will focus on developing these therapies based on combining Race's chemotherapy drug, Bisantrene, with TargImmune's targeted cancer therapy technology.

The new intellectual property created by RITX will be equally co-owned by both parties through their ownership of the joint venture.

RITX will be independently funded and operations of the JV will start once funding is in place and upon the execution of formal agreements, which are subject to approval of both companies' boards.

For the new JV, TargImmune scientists in Basel, under the guidance of a steering committee will provide all core development work. 

According to Race, no direct funding will be provided to the JV, instead the company will provide scientific support and Bisantrene drug product.

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"We believe this joint venture is significantly value accretive for Race. Bisantrene has demonstrated therapeutic benefit in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which is a relatively rare disease."

In-licensed from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the TargImmune technology platform includes a non-viral vector to target receptors that are overexpressed on cancer cells, such as those found in breast cancer and several other important cancers. 

Once at the target cell, the vector delivers an immune-modulating agent (poly-IC or pIC) into the cell, which then triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death) and an immune response against the cancer and the overall targeting technology is known as Cancer Targeted delivery of pIC (CTPIC).

Race CEO Peter Molloy said: "We believe this joint venture is significantly value accretive for Race. Bisantrene has demonstrated therapeutic benefit in AML (acute myeloid leukaemia), which is a relatively rare disease.

"The joint venture opens up potential therapeutic opportunities for Bisantrene in all major cancers, greatly expanding the pool of patients who could benefit from this valuable chemotherapeutic agent."

The new JV will initially focus on developing combinations of Bisantrene with CTPIC aimed at epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), an important target in breast and other cancers.

Other than EGFR, the JV will explore combinations of Bisantrene with CTPIC aimed at other cancer targets such as PSMA (a prostate cancer marker).