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Multiplatform Gliknik Tackling Cancer, Immune Disease Markets

BioWorld Today
By Jennifer Boggs
Assistant Managing Editor

Despite its small size – only five employees – young biotech firm Gliknik Inc. has some big goals.

Founded in 2007 by friends CEO David Block and Scott Strome, a scientist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Gliknik’s work is powered by three platform technologies, each of which has the potential to target the large cancer and immune disease markets. The Stradomer platform is designed to produce recombinant drugs that mimic IVIG; the Stradobody platform develops compounds similar to monoclonal antibodies but with increased immune cell response; and the Immunomodulator platform is working on peptide therapeutic vaccines.

All the technology was licensed from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the Mayo Clinic.

Those are “a lot of assets for a company of our size,” Block acknowledged. “And what’s nice about the Stradomer and Stradobody platforms is that they’re relatively low risk,” which could make them attractive to investors and partners alike. But the firm’s immunomodulator work is the most advanced to date, building on “what we have learned from some of the failures of cancer vaccines over the last couple of decades,” Block said.

Gliknik’s vaccines are designed to boost CD4, CD8 and antibody immune responses against cancer by targeting specific antigens. Its two lead compounds – GL-0810, designed to target human papillomavirus (HPV-16), and GL-0817, designed to target MAGE-A3 – both have shown
promise in head and neck cancer, for which the FDA granted orphan designation last year.

“We’re looking to get clear proof of concept in that [indication] first,” Block told BioWorld Today, but the vaccines could later be moved into additional cancer types.

For instance, London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc has shown promising early data with its MAGE-13-targeting immunotherapeutic in lung cancer. And MAGE also has been implicated in breast cancer, Block said.

Gliknik plans to start a second trial with its vaccines this year. Also in 2010, the firm hopes to advance the first Stradomers into preclinical testing. “What’s exciting about this [program] is that we expect to get proof of concept in Phase I,” Block said.

IVIG (human intravenous immunoglobulin) currently is used to treat more than 50 autoimmune conditions and represents a $3 billion market. But it’s based on plasma pooled from donors, which puts it at supply risks and can result in potentially serious reactions.

Gliknik has been able to create a recombinant version of IVIG, designated GL-2045. And early work in animal models has shown a more robust response compared to IVIG in treating immune disorders, Block said.

The company’s third platform, Stradobodies, also aims at creating improved products – in this case, antibodies. They are designed to “change the back end, the Fc end, of the monoclonal antibody to induce stronger immune cell response,” Block said.

Though it intends to begin development of its own internal Stradobody in the next year or so, the technology platform might prove particularly suitable for partnershipssince it appears to be applicable to every antibody that acts through antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity.

Gliknik’s raised $4 million in investor money to date and has secured grant funding, including federal grants that are supporting the ongoing trials of immunomodulators GL-0810 and GL-0817. Block said plans are under way to seek additional financing to support further R&D work, but the company hopes to bring in additional money via partnering deals.

Within the next couple of years, “we expect to enter one or more pharmaceutical partnerships,” he said.

Gliknik is based at the University of Maryland BioPark BioInnovation Center. In addition to Block and Strome, the company’s management team is rounded out with Henrik Olsen, principal scientist.