In January 2016, we announced a collaboration with MSD, known as Merck in the U.S. and Canada, in the field of cancer immunotherapy. We plan to sponsor and conduct a Phase 2 study investigating BL-8040 in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), MSD’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Findings in the field of immuno-oncology suggest that CXCR4 antagonists such as BL-8040 may be effective in inducing the migration of anti-tumor T cells into the tumor micro-environment. KEYTRUDA® is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA® blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T- lymphocytes, which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells. The study is an open-label, multicenter, single-arm trial designed to evaluate the clinical response, safety and tolerability of the combination of BL-8040 and KEYTRUDA® as well as multiple pharmacodynamic parameters, including the ability to improve infiltration of T cells into the tumor and their reactivity. The study is planned to commence by mid-2016. Upon completion of the study, or at any earlier point, both parties will have the option to expand the collaboration to include a pivotal registration study.
BL-7010 is a novel, non-absorbable, orally available, high-molecular-weight co-polymer intended for the treatment of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. It has a high affinity for gliadins, the immunogenic proteins present in gluten that cause an immune response in patients with celiac disease. BL-7010 effectively masks gliadins from enzymatic degradation and prevents the formation of immunogenic peptides that trigger the immune system. BL-7010 is excreted with gliadin from the digestive tract, preventing the formation and absorption of gliadin peptides. This significantly reduces the immune response triggered by gluten. We in-licensed the exclusive, worldwide rights to develop, market and sell BL-7010 from Valorisation-Recherche, Limited Partnership, or Univalor in February 2011.
Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory disease of the small intestine characterized by damage to the lining of the small intestine and typically leads to dyspepsia, malabsorption and a variety of other symptoms. It occurs in genetically predisposed individuals and is caused by an immunological reaction to gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye. Estimates suggest that 1% of the world’s population is affected by celiac disease, and prevalence is expected to increase dramatically with improved diagnosis and awareness of the disease. There are currently no treatments approved for celiac disease and the only treatment option is a life-long, strict, gluten-free diet, which is difficult to maintain both due to food contamination with gluten, as well as eating habits in a social setting. Estimates suggest that approximately 30% of patients on a gluten-free diet are still symptomatic to some extent.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). NCGS is defined as a clinical condition induced by ingestion of gluten and leading to intestinal and/or extra-intestinal symptoms in subjects in which celiac disease and wheat allergy have been ruled out. The overall prevalence of NCGS in the general population is considered to be higher than celiac disease. However the exact number is still unknown and the estimates vary widely, mainly due to the absence of biomarkers and the fact that many patients are self-diagnosed. As is the case with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is currently the only therapy available for persons with NCGS. The total market for gluten-free products has grown to about 40 million consumers, of whom only up to four million suffer from celiac disease. This reinforces the large potentially available market size for products addressing NCGS.
Preclinical Results. BL-7010 was evaluated in preclinical safety and efficacy studies. As we received conditional approval for device designation in Europe, the safety data available included a 6-week rat toxicity study and a biocompatibility package of studies. BL-7010 was found to be well tolerated in the rat toxicity study conducted at a dose range of 500 mg/kg to 3,000 mg/kg body weight/day by oral gavage. In addition, BL-7010 was found to have no mutagenic activity, to have no local irritation effect in the gastrointestinal tract and is not considered to be a sensitizer.