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Phio, AgonOx Ink T-Cell Immunotherapy Development Pact

NEW YORK – Phio Pharmaceuticals and AgonOx on Monday said they will collaborate on the development of T cell-based immunotherapies by combining Phio's lead product, the self-delivering RNAi compound PH-762, and AgonOx's "double positive" tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) technology.

In preclinical studies, the companies have shown that treating "double positive" CD8 TILs with PH-762 improves their ability to kill tumor cells. Phio and AgonOx are planning to advance PH-762-treated "double positive" TILs into a clinical study and begin enrollment later this year.

Under the terms of their agreement, Marlborough, Massachusetts-based Phio will provide financial support for the trial and will be entitled to future development milestone payments from AgonOx. Phio may also receive royalties based on the sales of AgonOx's "double positive" TIL technology.

PH-762 is a self-delivering RNAi compound designed to silence PD-1 expression on T cells and increase the efficacy of TILs or engineered cell-based treatments. However, PH-762 doesn't require genetic engineering or special delivery tools.

AgonOx, a spinoff of the Providence Cancer Center in Portland, Oregon, has developed a method for identifying, isolating, and expanding CD103-postive and CD39-positive tumor-infiltrating CD8 T cells from patients and shown that when CD8 TILs are double-positive for these receptors they have enhanced tumor-killing abilities compared to CD8 TILs that are not enriched in this manner. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05072-0

"Autologous T cell therapies hold a lot of promise, however, there is still a lot of research needed to be done to unlock its full therapeutic potential, including ways to improve upon the first generation of TIL products, and ways to use TIL therapy in more types of cancer," Phio CEO Gerrit Dispersyn said in a statement. "By joining forces with AgonOx, we believe our collaboration can fulfill these unmet needs, without the need for complex and costly technologies, such as genetic engineering."