On their own, cancer or diabetes can be debilitating and deadly. The two are common diseases with tremendous impact on health worldwide. To make matters worse, epidemiologic evidence suggests that people with diabetes — especially Type 2 diabetes — are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer. The two pose a significant health problem and threat globally.
In oncology, Genprex, Inc. GNPX is initially focused on lung cancer. Annually, there are more than 2 million new cases of lung cancer worldwide with an average five-year survival rate of 18.6%. Over 537 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes with annual global mortality of about 6.7 million.
Gene Therapy To The Rescue?
Genprex Inc., a clinical-stage gene therapy company, is focused on developing for these patients with serious medical conditions and unmet need new and better treatment options that are life-changing.
Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, the company has been at the forefront of gene therapy research, focusing on harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies to improve the lives of those affected by debilitating conditions.
Driven by a deep commitment to scientific excellence and patient-centricity, Genprex reports that its mission is to revolutionize the treatment landscape by developing innovative gene therapies that have the potential to transform the lives of patients who have limited treatment options.
Genprex’s oncology program utilizes the company’s proprietary, non-viral ONCOPREX® Nanoparticle Delivery System, which it believes is the first systemic gene therapy delivery platform used for cancer in humans. ONCOPREX® encapsulates the gene-expressing plasmids using lipid nanoparticles, and the resultant product is administered intravenously, where it is then taken up by tumor cells in which tumor suppressor genes are missing or deficient.
Genprex’s value proposition lies in its robust and diversified pipeline of gene therapy candidates addressing large underserved patient populations, a strong intellectual property portfolio, and a seasoned management team with extensive experience in biopharmaceutical development and commercialization.
The company’s pipeline is anchored by its lead product candidate, REQORSA™ Immunogene Therapy (quaratusugene ozeplasmid), an innovative gene therapy that has been shown in pre-clinical testing to be potentially applicable to many types of cancer. Genprex is initially targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). REQORSA™ works by introducing a tumor suppressor gene (TUSC2) into cancer cells, inhibiting tumor growth and promoting cancer cell death.
REQORSA™ is being evaluated by Genprex as a treatment for NSCLC in two phase 1/2 clinical trials, with each trial receiving a Fast Track Designation (“FTD”) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One FTD is for use of REQORSA in combination with Merck & Co’s MRK Keytruda®, and the other is for use of REQORSA in combination with Astra Zeneca’s AZN Tagrisso REQORSA is also being evaluated for SCLC in combination with Genentech’s Tecentriq with a trial expected to launch later this year. REQORSA has shown promise in preclinical and clinical studies, demonstrating its potential to improve patient outcomes in combination with other cancer treatments.
Genprex sees the potential to use its proprietary gene therapy delivery platform to pursue a number of other cancer indications targeting the delivery of therapeutic genes to tumors as opposed to normal cells.
The company’s diabetes gene therapy approach comprises a novel infusion process that uses an endoscope and an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector to deliver Pdx1 and MafA genes to the pancreas.
In models of Type 1 diabetes, the genes express proteins that transform alpha cells in the pancreas into functional beta-like cells, which can produce insulin but are distinct enough from beta cells to evade the body’s immune system. In Type 2 diabetes, where autoimmunity is not at play, it is believed that exhausted beta cells are rejuvenated and replenished.
The company in February announced groundbreaking data from a non-human primate study evaluating its novel gene therapy to treat Type 1 diabetes. Results showed statistically significant decreases in insulin requirements, increases in c-peptide levels and improvements in glucose tolerance compared to baseline.
The report was based on results from eight non-human primates (NHPs) with toxin-induced diabetes after streptozocin administration. They received a novel infusion process that used an AAV vector to deliver Pdx1 and MafA genes directly to the pancreas.
Big Pharma’s Bet On Gene Therapy
Big Pharma is rapidly accelerating investment in emerging gene therapies with diabetes being of particular note. Major players, such as Eli Lilly and Company LLY, Sanofi SA SNY, and Novo Nordisk A/S NVO, are advancing novel therapies that may supplant traditional insulin-based therapies. In April 2021, Jaguar Gene Therapy announced the closing of a $139 million Series B investment led by Eli Lilly and Company and Deerfield Management, to support the advancement of a novel gene therapy for type 1 diabetes. In March 2023, Sanofi announced the intention to acquire Provention Bio, and its TZIELD therapy that delays the onset of Type 1 diabetes, in a deal valued at approximately $2.9 billion. In April 2023, Novo Nordisk entered a collaboration with Aspect Biosystems to pursue novel therapeutics for Type 1 diabetes and obesity, in a deal valued at approximately $2.6 billion.
Other big players like Amgen Inc. AMGN, Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD, Biogen Inc. BIIB, and bluebird bio Inc. BLUE, have also made big bets in gene therapy.
Genprex’s intellectual property portfolio – consisting of numerous issued patents and pending patent applications licensed from major academic research institutions – could provide the company with a strong competitive advantage in the gene therapy space. This IP protection covers key aspects of the company’s proprietary technologies and product candidates, including methods of gene delivery, therapeutic compositions and manufacturing processes.
Experienced Management Team
The success of Genprex is driven by its experienced and dedicated management team, which brings decades of combined experience in biopharmaceutical development, commercialization, and business operations.
This expertise could ensure that the company is well-positioned to navigate the complex landscape of gene therapy development and deliver on its mission to bring innovative treatments to large populations of patients in need.
Genprex Strengthens Diabetes Gene Therapy Program
On December 15 last year, the company announced it had entered into an exclusive license agreement with the University of Pittsburgh, granting Genprex a worldwide, exclusive license to certain patent applications and related technology and a worldwide, non-exclusive license to use certain related know-how, all related to modulating autoimmunity in Type 1 diabetes by using gene therapy.
The preclinical technology transforms macrophages, enabling them to reduce autoimmune activity in Type 1 diabetes, and could be complementary to the company’s existing diabetes technology.
Genprex Signs Exclusive License To Additional Diabetes Technology
The company also revealed on January 5 that it has entered into another exclusive license agreement with the university, granting Genprex a worldwide, exclusive license to a patent application and related technology and a worldwide, non-exclusive license to use certain related know-how, all related to gene therapy for Type 2 diabetes using the genes of the Pdx1 and MafA transcription factors.
The preclinical technology, GPX-003, is believed to work by rejuvenating diminished beta cells to increase insulin expression by introducing transcription factors controlled by an insulin promoter.
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