8 August 2019
Cancer Research UK, the
world’s leading cancer charity, and Hummingbird Bioscience, an innovative
systems-biology enabled biotechnology company, have today (Thursday) announced
a partnership to develop Hummingbird’s anti-HER3 antibody drug, HMBD-001, for the
treatment of people with HER3 driven cancer.
Under the terms of the
partnership, Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development will fund the
programme, manufacture the clinical grade antibody and conduct a phase I
clinical trial to evaluate drug safety, toxicity and efficacy.*
Hummingbird will retain the
rights to further advance the HMBD-001 programme and following completion of
the trial, will have the option to acquire the rights to the clinical trial
results to support further development of the antibody. If Hummingbird elect not
to exercise their option, Cancer Research UK will have the right to take the
programme forward in all indications.
The novel antibody, brought
to Cancer Research UK through its Clinical Development Partnerships scheme, was
discovered by Hummingbird using its Rational Antibody Discovery Platform.
The antibody targets the HER3
receptor, which when activated through binding to other cancer-associated
proteins, turns on a strong signal that causes cancer cells to grow and divide.
This activation is common in multiple
solid tumours, including breast, gastric, pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers,
and is also seen when cancers develop resistance to existing cancer therapies. HMBD-001
is the only anti-HER3 antibody in development that binds to the most critical
region involved in HER3 activation, turning off this signal completely.** Therefore,
if successful, this new antibody could be used in the treatment of multiple
cancers and be effective against drug resistant cancers.
Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer
Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “We’re thrilled to be working
with Hummingbird to fast track such a promising new antibody, through one of
the most difficult stages of drug development.
“For many people with cancer,
targeted treatments can work in the short term, but drug resistance sometimes
leads to the eventual return of their tumour. We hope this antibody may be able
to overcome a key mechanism of drug resistance and help us find new lasting
ways to tackle the disease.”
antibody is distinct from other anti-HER3 agents currently in development, because
it blocks all mechanisms through which HER3 can be activated, overcoming an
intrinsic mechanism that has prevented previous HER3 therapeutics from working
HER3 receptor is activated via a process called heterodimerisation, where HER3
combines with other proteins also linked to cancer growth, EGFR or HER2. This process can be aided by a ligand molecule called
NRG1, which is at higher levels in patients with a specific genetic mutation.***
HER3 or its binding partners are overexpressed in cancer, excessive
heterodimerisation can trigger tumour growth and lead to the spread of disease
to other parts of the body. This process is also thought to contribute to some patient’s
cancers becoming resistant to common cancer drugs, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin),
which is used to treat breast cancer.
binding position of HMBD-001 is unique and it is currently the only antibody
that can efficiently block HER3 activation in both the presence and absence of
the ligand, NRG1. ***
Dr Jerome Boyd-Kirkup, chief
scientific officer at Hummingbird Bioscience, said: “We are excited and
privileged to be working with the deeply experienced team at Cancer Research UK
to develop HMBD-001 into the clinic.
“As an emerging drug
discovery company, the funding and management support that Cancer Research UK
will provide allows us to progress a potentially transformative new cancer
therapy into patients as quickly and as safely as possible. This support also
allows Hummingbird to focus on developing more desperately needed drugs against
new targets using our Rational Antibody Discovery Platform.”
For media enquiries contact
Angharad Kolator Baldwin in the Cancer Research UK press office on +4420 3469
8456 or, out of hours, on +447050 264 059.
Hummingbird Bioscience may be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 6266 2617.
Notes to editor:
* The phase 1 acceleration trial will take place through the
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC) network, which is funded by Cancer
Research UK and the UK’s four Health Departments.
** The HER3 receptor is activated by binding to other members
of the HER family. HER3, in its open conformation, combines with either EGFR or
HER2, in a process called heterodimerisation to form an active receptor that
turns on signalling through the PI3K pathway. The open conformation of HER3 can
be stabilised in the presence of a ligand, NRG1. However, in the presence of
abundant binding partners EGFR and HER2, stable heterodimers can still form
Activation of HER3 triggers tumour growth, proliferation,
migration and metastasis. As EGFR and HER2 normally signal through the MAPK
pathway, but HER3 signals through the PI3K pathway, up-regulation of the PI3K
pathway by increased HER3 activation can allow tumours to escape from MAPK
inhibition and lead to resistance to anti-HER2 and anti-EGFR drugs, such as
trastuzumab and cetuximab.
Hummingbird Bioscience’s antibody has been designed to
directly inhibit heterodimer formation by binding to and blocking the HER3
heterodimerisation interface. This antibody therefore blocks all HER3-mediated
signalling by preventing the formation of both EGFR-HER3 and HER2-HER3
heterodimers in both ligand-dependent and ligand-independent contexts.
*** Binding to EGFR or HER2 is
more likely when another protein, the ligand NRG1, is present at high levels,
for example in cancers where the ligand is mutated to form NRG1-fusion
proteins. Previous attempts to develop drugs against HER3 have tried to block
ligand binding but were unsuccessful because the binding partners EGFR and HER2
are so abundant in many cancers that heterodimerisation take place without
needing NRG1 to be present.
About Cancer Research UK’s
Centre for Drug Development
Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of developing
novel treatments for cancer. The Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug
Development, formerly the Drug Development Office, has been pioneering the
development of new cancer treatments for 25 years, taking over 140 potential
new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients. It currently has a
portfolio of around 30 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, Phase
I or early Phase II clinical trials. Six of these new agents have made it to
market including temozolomide for brain cancer, abiraterone for prostate cancer
and rucaparib for ovarian cancer. Two other drugs are in late development Phase
III trials. This rate of success is comparable to that of any pharmaceutical
About Cancer Research UK
Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving
lives through research.
Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment
of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
Research UK receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving
research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital
donations from the public.
Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen
survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research
UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people
will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work
of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring
forward the day when all cancers are cured.
For further information
about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity,
please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Hummingbird Bioscience is an innovative biotech
company, with facilities in Singapore, South San Francisco, California and
Houston, Texas, focused on applying advances in systems biology to rapidly
develop successful cancer therapeutics for patients with limited treatment options.
Recognition of the importance of both tumor evolution and evasion of immune
response as key “hallmarks of cancer” has provided a wide class of new drug
targets. Building on these insights, Hummingbird is applying integrative genomics and
proteomics to develop a comprehensive framework to systematically
address the barriers to an effective anti-tumor response in every patient.
Using its Rational Antibody Discovery Platform, a proprietary systems
immunology and computational structural biology approach that enables precise
targeting of epitopes and mechanisms of action on cancer-associated proteins,
Hummingbird Bioscience has developed a pipeline of highly promising first and
best-in-class oncology and immuno-oncology drugs. Within its pipeline,
HMBD-001 (anti-HER3 antibody) and HMBD-002 (anti-VISTA antibody) are
anticipated to start clinical trials in 2020. For more information on
Hummingbird Bioscience visit: www.hummingbirdbio.com