In addition to the planned Phase 1 trials around cancer vaccines, which are scheduled to start later this year, Defence Therapeutics also stands out for its antibody-drug conjugates (ADC). As we mentioned in our first comprehensive summary on Defence Therapeutics, "In this process, a specific drug is linked to an antibody by means of a peptide linker and thus reaches precisely where it is supposed to act. For example, into a tumor cell. Defence Therapeutics has data that Accum™ can significantly increase the efficacy of certain forms of therapy when combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are targeted in oncology to block anti-inflammatory immune checkpoints to provide benefits in the setting of therapy."
Merck or Sanofi? The list of potential partners is prominent
Most recently, Defence Therapeutics issued a press release on the efficacy of its proprietary HPV vaccine, which makes significant use of Accum™ technology. The result: Compared to Merck's product (Gardasil-9), AccuVAC-PT009 elicits up to a factor of 36 increased immune response. "We are incredibly proud to once again demonstrate how ACCUM™ can be used and applied to significantly boost any protein-based vaccine. Not only can this vaccine have a tremendous impact on improving the immunogenicity of marketed Gardasil-9, but it can additionally reduce the dosing schedule (by at least 10-fold) and still elicit a comparable or stronger humoral immune response" said CEO, Plouffe.
Defence Therapeutics could already envision collaborations with other manufacturers last year. Due to the versatile Accum™ technology, which is suitable for enhancing the efficacy of vaccines and drugs, such collaborations are obvious. When asked, CEO Plouffe believes collaborations are possible around both protein-based Covid vaccines and vaccines against HPV. So far, the top dogs Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Merck and Sanofi have been active in these areas. The French company, in particular, could be a suitable partner for Defence Therapeutics, as the Canadians are researching similar products that can be applied nasally. Last September, Defence already reported the success of a nasally administered Covid-19 vaccine in animals: "With Defence's new AccuVAC-IN002 formulation, we are able to induce both systemic and mucosal IgA and IgG antibody responses. This would ensure a transmission-inhibitory effect that not only stops initial infection, but also ensures nearly 100% blockade of viral shedding", Plouffe said at the time. Although animal studies can only provide an initial indication of potential marketability for humans, Defence Therapeutics' multiple good results nevertheless show how great the potential of Accum™ is.
Potential collaborations improve financing options
The long-term growth potential in both of Defence Therapeutics' businesses appears large: market researchers at Emergen Research project that the market for ADCs will grow 25.8% annually through 2028. The market for vaccines and other immune drugs against cancer is expected to be worth a whopping USD 163.1 billion by 2027. Given its patented technology and mounting evidence that Accum™ is safe and effective in many use cases, Defence Therapeutics remains a promising biotech company.
While many peers focus on only one product and are thus dependent on funders, not least of which is the risk of dilution for existing shareholders, Defence Therapeutics has multiple opportunities to generate revenue from licensing. This option can be considered an ace in the holefrom an investor's perspective. As conditions for growth companies worsen in the face of interest rate reversals and market dislocations, Defence Therapeutics has the potential to open up cash flows or initiate other fruitful collaborations in several areas at once.
Interim conclusion: Defence Therapeutics remains on track. While the market is becoming increasingly skeptical of lofty future plans in the tech sector, the biotech market continues to be in a gold-rush mood. Not only has Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna taken advantage of the positive financing and approval conditions during the pandemic, but the insights of the past two years also benefit many smaller companies. With the encouraging results on HPV vaccination and several options for collaborations with large companies at the same time, Defence Therapeutics remains on a good course in 2022.