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Vaccinex has signed a collaboration agreement with Germany-based Merck KGaA to analyse VX15/2503 in combination with avelumab.

 VX15/2503 is a investigational humanised anti-semaphorin 4D IgG4 monoclonal antibody, while avelumab is an investigational fully human anti-PD-L1 IgG1 monoclonal antibody.

Patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have not previously received immunotherapy will be included in the planned Phase lb/II clinical trial, which will be carried out by Vaccinex.

Vaccinex's CEO Dr. Maurice Zauderer said: "Immunotherapies have shown promise in how we treat cancer, and the investigation of combination therapies may uncover additional possibilities.

"Immunotherapies have shown promise in how we treat cancer, and the investigation of combination therapies may uncover additional possibilities."

"We look forward to working with Merck KGaA to explore how we can bring the potential of immunotherapy to more patients, especially considering a Phase 1 study of monotherapy with VX15/2503 in patients with solid tumours has already suggested its potential for use in combination therapies.”

In preclinical studies, anti-semaphorin 4D antibodies have indicated to increase infiltration of tumoricidal immune cells while reducing multiple types of immunosuppressive cells in tumours. Anti-semaphorin 4D antibody was found to synergise with a checkpoint inhibitor antibody to promote tumor eradication.

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Merck KGaA's head of global clinical development in the biopharma business Alise Reicin said: “Non-small cell lung cancer continues to be one of the most challenging of cancers worldwide, and we believe in investigating promising avenues to address this need.

“Through this partnership with Vaccinex, we are exploring an innovative combination with avelumab that we hope will provide a new option for patients with this deadly cancer.”

Avelumab is jointly developed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Pfizer.