MorphoSys and Vivoryon Therapeutics Enter Agreement on Small Molecule Inhibitors of CD47-SIRP alpha Signaling in Immuno-Oncology

HALLE (SAALE) and PLANEGG/Munich, Germany, 8 July 2019: Vivoryon Therapeutics AG (Euronext Amsterdam: VVY) and MorphoSys AG (FSE: MOR; Prime Standard Segment; MDAX & TecDAX; Nasdaq: MOR) today announced that they have entered into an agreement under the terms of which MorphoSys has obtained an exclusive option to license Vivoryon's small molecule QPCTL inhibitors in the field of oncology. The option covers worldwide development and commercialization for cancer of Vivoryon's family of inhibitors of the glutaminyl-peptide cyclotransferase-like (QPCTL) protein, including its lead compound PQ912. In exchange, MorphoSys has committed to investing up to EUR 15 million in a minority stake in Vivoryon Therapeutics as part of a capital raise planned for later this year.

While Vivoryon's lead drug candidate PQ912 has already completed a phase 2a clinical trial in Alzheimer's disease, recent preclinical data strongly suggest that the compound could represent a novel approach for cancer therapy. Vivoryon's orally available compounds target the QPCTL enzyme, which has been shown to be a modulator of the CD47-SIRP alpha interaction. Left unchecked, this interaction, known as the "don't eat me" signal, allows cancer cells to escape the body's innate immune defense through inhibition of the phagocytic activity of macrophages. During the option period, MorphoSys will conduct preclinical validation experiments on Vivoryon's family of QPCTL inhibitors, including an assessment of the potential benefits of combining them with MorphoSys's proprietary program tafasitamab (MOR208), which is currently in late-stage development for the treatment of relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (r/r DLBCL).

"This deal gives us access to a unique set of drug candidates with exciting potential in cancer", said Dr. Simon Moroney, CEO of MorphoSys. "A number of studies suggests that the CD47-SIRP alpha interaction may be of central importance to the activity of some anti-cancer antibodies. In this regard, securing rights to Vivoryon's estate of compounds in oncology makes strong strategic sense for us. In particular, we are looking forward to exploring the potential for synergy with tafasitamab (MOR208), our most advanced drug candidate. If successful, the use of these orally formulated QPCTL inhibitors may open the way to combinations with other anti-cancer antibodies aiming at boosting their cell killing activity."

"Our small molecule inhibitors represent a novel and innovative therapeutic approach to silence the critical CD47-SIRP alpha checkpoint signal in cancer immunotherapy," said Dr. Ulrich Dauer, CEO of Vivoryon Therapeutics. "As a leading company for antibody and protein technologies with a strong oncology focus, MorphoSys is the ideal partner for us. For Vivoryon this is a strategic alliance to exploit the potential of our first-in-class, highly specific and potent small molecules in combination with therapeutic antibodies for a targeted range of cancer indications. While remaining strongly committed to our development plans in Alzheimer's disease, we are delivering on our strategy to extend the potential of our technology to immuno-oncology."

If MorphoSys chooses to exercise the option, Vivoryon Therapeutics will receive an option fee, and is eligible for milestone payments and royalties.
 
The full press release with more information is available here.