Oncolytics Bio Tacks On Cancer Combo Study with Merck KGaA, Pfizer

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The deal includes an option for Merck KGaA and Pfizer to get exclusive rights to continue to develop pelareorep in HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer after an interim analysis of data from the Phase 2 trial, the company says. The companies can exercise the right during the study or up to 90 days afterward.

Oncolytics president and CEO Matt Coffey said the agreement reflects the industry’s increasing interest in the promise of therapies that pair up oncolytic viruses with checkpoint inhibitors.

The company is also testing pelareorep in combination with Roche’s cancer drug atezolizumab (Tecentriq) in patients with breast cancer.

Even if Oncolytics finds that it has a perfect match with avelumab in breast cancer, the company will still date around to find combinations in other types of cancer.

It is also working with Myeloma UK and Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) in a study of pelareorep combined with lenalidomide/pomalidomide (Imnovid/Revlimid) for relapsing myeloma. Other combination studies underway involve Merck’s drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda), the cancer immunotherapy, in multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab (Opdivo) in multiple myeloma.

In addition to pharma, venture investors are also interested in the potential of oncolytic viruses and their potential impact on cancer care.

OncoMyx, an Arizona-based oncolytic immunotherapy company, this month raised $25 million in Series A financing. Among the pool of investors—Boehringer Ingelheim, Delos Capital, and Xeraya Capital led the round—was San Diego’s City Hill Ventures. The firm is headed by Jonathan Lim, who sold Ignyta to Roche and launched another cancer drug company, Erasca. Steve Potts, founder and CEO, is also an Ignyta alum.

The FDA approved the first oncolytic virus treatment for cancer in 2015. The Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) drug, talimogene laherparepvec (Imlygic), was OK’d for melanoma patients—a program for which it had paid BioVex $1 billion in 2011.

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