Oncimmune and Medicines Discovery Catapult awarded UK Government funding for development of an Infectious Disease research tool for use in COVID-19

Medicines Discovery Catapult

Validated research tool to be used to predict disease severity and individual therapeutic response to COVID-19 in aid of rapid vaccine and drug development

Oncimmune Holdings plc (AIM: ONC.L), the leading global immunodiagnostics group, today announces the award of funding from the ‘UK Research and Innovation (“UKRI”) Ideas to Address COVID-19′ programme, to support a joint collaboration between Oncimmune and Medicines Discovery Catapult (“MDC”) to deliver the IMmunity Profiling of pAtients with COVID-19 for Therapy and Triage (“IMPACTT”) programme.

This collaboration represents a critical partnership in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will focus on enabling better treatment selection for patients according to their immune profile.

The IMPACTT programme will collect samples and clinical data from 3,000 UK COVID-19 patients to be studied by Oncimmune to develop and validate an Infectious Disease NavigAID™ panel of biomarkers that can be used in COVID-19 research. This research tool will be designed to predict both likely patient response to the virus and effectiveness of vaccines and treatment against it.

Oncimmune currently has over 800 SARS-CoV-2 related antigens and peptides for profiling COVID-19 patients and predicting their response to vaccines and therapeutics against the virus. MDC, which will be responsible for collecting the patient samples, is the UK Government’s hub for medicines research and development and the organisation responsible for setting up the Lighthouse Lab Network, a multi-party collaboration of laboratories processing COVID-19 test samples. This critical collaboration leverages the strengths of both organisations to rapidly develop a profiling tool to optimise novel therapeutics in patients with differing COVID-19 severity.

Responding to the UK Government’s call for research into the risk factors, transmission and prevalence of COVID-19, this programme will analyse the immune system’s response of COVID-19 patients, and using Oncimmune’s proprietary profiling platform, Oncimmune will stratify these patients into three categories of response to the virus – mild, moderate and severe. Oncimmune will then use this data to develop, refine and validate a dedicated NavigAID panel, which can then be deployed to predict COVID-19 disease severity and therapeutic response.

As a result of this programme, the collaborators will have developed an extensive COVID-19 sample severity-based biorepository and data registry from 3,000 UK COVID-19 patients, which will be utilised to support Oncimmune’s future commercial projects with its growing portfolio of biopharmaceutical customers. This biorepository and the NavigAID panel will be used to test, evaluate and optimise novel therapies to mitigate the effects of this disease, building upon Oncimmune’s existing bioresource and data assets, which will also be further increased over time to address a broader range of infectious diseases.

Over 1,220 biologic therapeutics, including over 200 vaccines1 for COVID-19, are currently thought to be in clinical trials globally. Anticipating the immune response to these novel therapeutics in patients with differing disease severity, as well as predicting potential side effects to these drugs, will be critical for optimising individual therapy and developing safe and effective vaccines. Oncimmune anticipates having an Infectious Disease NavigAID panel delivering results within two months of the commencement of the development phase and available to Academic Partners. Within six months, it is expected to be in a position to support commercial projects for its biopharmaceutical customers, for which a number of discussions are already underway.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary said:

“The UK is leading the way on research to find effective treatments for COVID-19 and through innovative clinical partnerships we can continue to improve our understanding of the specific risk factors associated with this new virus.

“This in turn will help us better target treatments and improve outcomes for all patients, to protect those most at risk from coronavirus.”

Alok Sharma, Business Secretary said:

“Our scientists and researchers are at the forefront of global efforts to better understand COVID-19 and have been working tirelessly to identify new and innovative therapies that will save lives. 

“By backing this pioneering project, we are ensuring that the best therapeutic approaches can be offered to the right patients at the right time.”

Dr Adam M Hill, CEO of Oncimmune said: 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic moves from the immediate challenge of developing novel diagnostics, we are now entering a phase where the world needs to better understand this disease in infected patients in order to optimise therapeutic outcomes. Oncimmune has been in discussion for some months now to utilise its differentiated technical knowledge to develop a comprehensive diagnostic tool capable of characterising the immune system’s response to COVID-19 and, as a consequence, being able to better predict patient symptom severity and treatment response. Together with MDC, this programme is now underway, and will shortly be ready to optimise the first wave of novel therapeutic approaches to preventing and treating this disease.

“Once completed, this dedicated Infectious Disease NavigAID panel will be a critical resource for biopharmaceutical companies in their development of biologic medicines and vaccines against COVID-19. At the same time, Oncimmune will be developing an important biobank and knowledge resource in the UK which will enable a greater understanding of which therapy should be used when, and in whom”.

Professor Chris Molloy, Chief Executive Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) said:

“Since co-ordinating the creation of the UK’s Lighthouse Labs network and delivering one of those labs, based at Alderley Park in Cheshire, MDC has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. This partnership with Oncimmune will draw on MDC’s access to nationwide biobanks and supplier networks, helping to unlock invaluable COVID-19 samples for UK biotechs, while also providing expertise in navigating the complex brokering and procurement process for obtaining samples

“We look forward to working with Oncimmune to broaden our collective intelligence on how the virus exhibits in different patients, subsequently leading to stratified and then more tailored therapeutics according to the varying need, constituting a pivotal shift in the efforts to understand and combat COVID-19.”

Listen to the Extra Time podcast with Chis Molloy, CEO MDC on the collaboration >

Watch Dr Adam M Hill present on why Oncimmune is undertaking this work, its importance in fighting COVID-19 and what it means commercially to Oncimmune >

  1. COVID-19 dashboard, GlobalData. Accessed on 19.08.2020