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SA institute to team with Danish drug development firm on cancer fight
April 29, 2016


W. Scott Bailey
Reporter/Project Coordinator

San Antonio Business Journal

START co-founder Dr. Amita Patnaik says collaboration with international biopharmaceutical firm Symphogen will create new opportunities for local cancer researchers and more exposure for San Antonio.

South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics, or START, has been selected to work with a global biopharmaceutical company on a new cancer-treatment study that is expected to lead to more international clinical opportunities for the San Antonio-based institute and additional exposure for the Alamo City’s bioscience industry.

START, which already has an international presence, with five sites across the world, will conduct a Phase I clinical trial in San Antonio for Copenhagen, Denmark-based Symphogen’s Sym015 program, which is based on an investigational mixture of two antibodies targeting the MET — or hepatocyte growth factor — receptor. The Alamo City trial will focus on patients with solid tumors and test Symphogen’s Sym015 anti-MET antibody combination.

"START is one of only two sites worldwide that will be evaluating the safety, tolerability and response of Sym015 — a first-in-human and novel inhibitor of the signaling protein, MET, which is felt to be an important therapeutic target in cancer patients," said Dr. Amita Patnaik, associate director of clinical research for START and principal investigator for the Symphogen study.

Symphogen is developing next-generation antibody therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. It is engaged in collaborative drug discovery and development projects with some impressive partners, including Genentech and Baxalta. The European company’s selection of START is a major score for San Antonio, which continues to work to expand its bioscience profile globally.

"It signals that San Antonio, because of the reputation of START, continues to be recognized as a destination for world-class cancer research," Patnaik said.

Dr. Anthony Tolcher, president and co-founder of START, said the alliance with Symphogen will allow researchers to bring the unique approach of an antibody mixture into a clinical environment. He added that the Sym015 program could ultimately lead to treatment options for patients with multiple types of tumors.

Patnaik, who is also a co-founder of START, said the decision by Symphogen to work with the San Antonio institution will allow global partners who share a common goal of developing new therapies for patients living with advanced cancer.

"START is very uniquely situated as a leader in Phase I trials, and well positioned to test early-phase compounds such as Sym015," she said. "The expertise that is housed at START allows for the evaluation of such pivotal first-in-human compounds. The data generated through our combined efforts ... ultimately helps our pharmaceutical sponsors to determine whether there is merit in disease-directed evaluations and continued development."

START officials anticipate that the study will take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete. The actual time will vary depending on the tolerance of the regimen, as well as its activity.
Patnaik fully expects that this effort will lead to other opportunities to work with Symphogen.

"It is expected that START and Symphogen will remain long-term collaboration partners," she said.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston will also work with Symphogen on the Sym015 trial.

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