Medicenna Therapeutics Unique Cancer Treatment Shows Promise

Medicenna Therapeutics Corp.’s (TSX:MDNA) technology platform supports a unique, multi-methodology treatment paradigm

SmallCapPower | August 31, 2018: Medicenna Therapeutics Corp. (TSX:MDNA) is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company that develops and commercializes novel treatment for a broad range of cancers. The Company’s proprietary technology platform supports a unique, multi-methodology treatment paradigm that can precisely deliver potent cell-killing agents for cancer, as well as actively alter the immunosuppressive tumor micro-environment, without harming healthy cells.

Medicenna Therapeutics currently trades at a market capitalization of $37.5 million.

Investment Thesis

  • MDNA55’s clinical trial underway
  • Superkine and Empowered Cytokine Platforms

MDNA55’s clinical trial underway  

MDNA55 is Medicenna’s lead EC in clinical development for the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma (rGBM), which is a uniformly fatal form of brain cancer. It is a fusion of a circularly permuted version of interleukin (IL-4), fused to a potent fragment of the bacterial toxin, Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE). MDNA55 has shown significant indications of effectiveness in three clinical trials on 72 patients with high-grade gliomas, including 66 patients with rGBM. The Company has secured Orphan Drug Status from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for MDNA55. Also, MDNA55 has got Fast Track Designation from the FDA for the treatment of rGBM. The Company will be focused on completion of patient enrollment for its Phase 2b clinical trial for MDNA55 in 52 rGBM patients at clinical sites throughout the U.S. and hopes to complete enrolment by Q4 2018.

There have been many improvements to the convection enhanced delivery (CED) technology, a drug-delivery technique for localized delivery of MDNA55 into brain tumors. This comprises of newly-developed techniques for high-precision placement of catheters into the tumor bed, as well as novel stepped design catheters that prevent backflow and leakage of MDNA55 during treatment.

By co-infusion of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent with MDNA55, drug distribution can be monitored in real-time in order to achieve maximum coverage of the tumor bed and the tumor margins. The Company has obtained an exclusive license from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to patents covering CED and the use of a surrogate tracer for real-time monitoring of MDNA55 delivery and distribution. MDNA55’s brain cancer market opportunity is estimated to be $2 billion annually.

Superkine and Empowered Cytokine Platforms

Medicenna’s MDNA109 and MDNA209 are built upon IL-2 mechanism, which is one of the first effective immunotherapies developed to treat cancer. IL-2 receptor is composed of three different subunits: IL-2Rα (also known as CD25), IL-2Rβ (CD122) and IL-2Rγ (CD132). MDNA109 is an enhanced version of IL-2, which binds 1,000 times more effectively to IL-2Rβ. Thus, it significantly increases the ability to activate and proliferate the immune cells needed to fight cancer. As it preferentially binds IL-2Rβ, and not the receptor containing IL-2Rα, MDNA109 drives effector T cell responses over regulatory T cells.

Additionally, MDNA109 reverses Natural Killer (NK) cell energy and acts with exceptional synergy when combined with checkpoint inhibitors. Lead selection of MDNA109 with extended half-life characteristics is currently happening and is anticipated to be completed in 2018. MDNA209 can be used to induce the opposite effect – this Superkine mimics the shape of IL-2 and is also 1,000 times more likely to bind IL-2Rβ. But rather than triggering IL-2 signaling, MDNA209 acts as an antagonist, blocking the receptor and preventing it from transmitting the signal. This could be used for diseases such as autoimmune disorders, where it is essential to prevent T cells from becoming activated and attacking healthy tissue.

The Company’s IL-4 and IL-13 Superkines are engineered versions of wild type cytokines, which have enhanced affinity and selectivity for either the Type 1 or Type 2 (IL4R). This selectivity is achieved through mutations of the IL-4 or IL-13 proteins to enhance affinity for binding to specific IL4R subunits. Additional mutations have also been engineered to modulate their bioactivity, resulting in Superkines with enhanced signaling (super-agonists) or the ability to block signaling (super-antagonists).

Outlook and Valuation        

In terms of valuation, Medicenna Therapeutics currently trades at a market capitalization of $37.5 million on the TSX. The Company is performing clinical trials of its drugs, which are aimed at expanding the portfolio of drugs for treatment of a range of cancers. Medicenna Therapeutics Corp’s research and development, thus far, looks promising.

Disclosure: Neither the author nor his family own shares in the company mentioned above.

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