Immutep (ASX:IMM) share price bounces on new supply deal

The biotech company’s shares are up and down this morning following an update on its latest cancer study.

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Lab technician analyses a sample in a laboratory for a clinical trial

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The Immutep Ltd (ASX: IMM) share price is bouncing around today after the biotechnology company announced it has teamed up with a new German partner for a cancer study.

After rising and falling several times during early trade, Immutep shares are currently trading 1.43% higher at 71.5 cents.

Immutep enters collaboration for clinical trial

Immutep, which develops products to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases, has signed a new collaboration and supply agreement with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Judging by the rollercoaster performance of the Immutep share price so far today, it seems investors have mixed feelings about the company’s latest news.

The two companies will team up for a phase I/IIa clinical trial in patients with solid tumours. The study, titled INSIGHT-005, will evaluate the feasibility, safety and efficacy of Immutep’s lead product candidate, eftilagimod alpha (efti or IMP321) when given in combination with bintrafusp alfa (M7824).

M7824, developed jointly by Merck, Darmstadt, Germany and GlaxoSmithKline, is an investigational bifunctional fusion protein immunotherapy.

Immutep stated: “Bintrafusp alfa aims to block two immunosuppressive pathways, TGF-β and PD-L1, while efti activates antigen presenting cells, via the LAG-3 – MHC II pathway.”

In layman’s terms, efti works by controlling signalling pathways and activating T-cell function, while M7824 removes two brakes to allow the immune system to kill cancer cells.

The INSIGHT-005 trial will be conducted by the Institute of Clinical Cancer Research, at Krankenhaus Nordwest in Frankfurt, Germany. Subject to regulatory and ethics committee approval, the first patient is expected to be enrolled in mid-2021. First data is estimated to be available in early 2022.

Management commentary

Immutep CEO Marc Voigt said:

Through INSIGHT-005, we plan to explore the effect of releasing the brakes and pushing the accelerator of the body’s immune system in three different positions of the cancer immunity cycle. The new trial builds on our knowledge and the encouraging data from the INSIGHT trial of efti, also in solid tumours. We are excited about this new clinical collaboration which allows us to extend and strengthen our relationship with an existing partner in a new and exciting setting, particularly at a time when there is growing awareness and validation of the LAG-3 MHC class II interaction.

Dr Salah-Eddin Al-Batran, lead investigator of INSIGHT-005, added:

We are very pleased to be expanding our involvement with Immutep to explore efti in a new combination with bintrafusp alfa. Our experience and knowledge of efti, combined with our extensive nationwide network of more than 500 German clinical facilities, means we are well equipped to lead the INSIGHT-005 study.

How has the Immutep share price been performing?

Immutep shares have jumped by more than 250% over the past 12 months, and are up by around 70% year to date.

Based on current valuations, Immutep has a market capitalisation of about $497 million, with approximately 696 million shares on issue.

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