Hookipa Pharma Inc. is a clinical-stage company developing medicines to prevent and cure infectious diseases and cancer. With this goal in mind, we have created unique and cutting-edge technologies to reprogram and stimulate the immune system.
Our arenavirus technologies, Vaxwave® and TheraT®, are antigen delivery vehicles, engineered to trigger immune responses to combat infections or cancers. Vaxwave®, a replication-deficient viral vector, and TheraT®, a replication-attenuated vector, induce potent antigen CD8 T cell responses in vivo, while also generating potent pathogen-neutralizing antibodies. TheraT®-induced CD8 T cells reach frequencies and potencies in response to tumor antigens that match or exceed those observed following adoptive T cell therapy. Over the last few years several personalized T cell mediated therapies (e.g. TILs, ACT, TCR) have demonstrated clinical success ex vivo but replicating this success in vivo has proven difficult. Hookipa’s viral vectors are “off-the-shelf” and naturally reprogram the immune system, stimulating an increase in CD8 T cells against a target of choice. In practice, our vectors can be delivered anywhere, intramuscularly, intravenously, or directly into a tumor, according to the needs of the patient or the type of the cancer. Our vectors target dendritic cells which stimulate T cells to fight the disease. These stimulated T cells then naturally attack the infectious disease or cancer target. In immuno-oncology, this mechanism enables us to fight solid tumors systemically, both primary tumors and secondary tumors that have spread (metastasized). Vaxwave® and TheraT® can both be administered repeatedly and maintain their efficacy as they carry glycan shields, which prevents neutralizing antibodies from deactivating them. Other vector systems lose their efficacy after one injection. Vaxwave® and TheraT® do not need to be patient-specific and do not require complicated ex-vivo cell handling and engineering. They are still able to reprogram the immune system and stimulate levels of antigen-specific CD8 T cells previously only possible using ex vivo approaches.
At Hookipa, we have successfully completed a Phase 1 trial of a Vaxwave®-based prophylactic vaccine to protect against cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections. In this trial, we demonstrated that Vaxwave® is as safe as placebo, induced potent CMV-neutralizing antibodies and did not stimulate the production of vector-neutralizing antibodies. Most importantly, we were also able to stimulate antigen specific CD8 T cell responses of a magnitude that surpassed previously published and curative adaptive cell transfer approaches. In essence, we validated our preclinical claims in a clinical setting.
A proof-of concept efficacy trial in solid organ transplant patients has started. Alongside this, we have forged a landmark partnership with Gilead Sciences Inc. to jointly research and develop a cure for both patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B virus infections. In immuno-oncology, we are building a proprietary pipeline to first target virally mediated cancers then tumor self-antigens, with the goal to overcoming challenges such as k tolerance, and self-antigens. Our first cancer program uses TheraT® vectors to combat HPV+ head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The second program targets prostate cancer by using three self-antigens: PSA, PSMA and PAP.