European cancer vaccine startup Nouscom poaches Pfizer I-O executive

Swiss oncology biotech Nouscom has nabbed Pfizer’s former global clinical leader of early and late stage immuno-oncology/hematology Adrian Woolfson, M.D., Ph.D., as its new CMO.

At Nouscom, Woolfson “will play a key role in leading the company's clinical development of its neoantigen off-the-shelf vaccine targeting tumors associated with Microsatellite Instability (MSI), as well as the personalized neoantigen vaccines and oncolytic virus programs,” it says in a statement.

Late last year, the cancer vaccine startup raised €42 million in a round that equipped a team to take off-the-shelf neoantigen cancer vaccine NOUS-209 into the clinic.

Basel, Switzerland-based Nouscom’s near-term prospects rest on programs based on Exovax. The Exovax platform uses single adenovirus vectors that can encode for 100 or more neoantigens to create vaccines that induce development and expansion of T-cell populations, including effector memory T cells.

Like other neoantigen biotechs, Nouscom is planning to combine its vaccines with checkpoint inhibitors. One thing that sets it apart is that its technology is similar to that used by Okairos to create vaccines tested in more than 4,000 people, a fact that gives that gives Nouscom confidence in the safety and immunogenicity—particularly CD8 T-cell response—of its candidates as it heads into the clinic.

Nouscom’s priority is to move NOUS-209 into phase 1/2 testing. If Nouscom hits its target, it thinks NOUS-209 may become the first off-the-shelf neoantigen cancer vaccine to be tested in humans. The company is developing the vaccine as a way to prevent cancer in Lynch syndrome carriers and treat tumors characterized by microsatellite instability.

This latest personnel addition is a nice poach for the small startup, which can lean on Woolfson’s experience at the Big Pharma for building a portfolio of monotherapy and combo studies for Pfizer's PD-L1 inhibitor Bavencio and 4-1BB agonist utomilumab (although the latter did recently see Pfizer cull a few studies around it, with Bavencio, too, stumbling over some recent trials).

He’s also served stints as global clinical lead at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was responsible for the development of a portfolio of small-molecule inhibitors including JAK2, CDC7, SMO and IGF-1R/IR.

“We are pleased to welcome Adrian, a seasoned pharmaceutical industry executive with highly relevant immunotherapy experience, to Nouscom’s management team,” said Alfredo Nicosia, CEO of Nouscom.

“Adrian's extensive immunotherapy drug development experience will allow us to leverage the clinical potential of our best-in-class platform as we look to enter our lead program, NOUS-209, an off-the-shelf cancer vaccine, into the clinic.”

May 29, 2018

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