Molecular Partners Announces Research Collaboration with University of Bern to Develop MP0533, a Multispecific DARPin for the Treatment of AML

ZURICH-SCHLIEREN, Switzerland and CONCORD, Mass., Dec. 03, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Molecular Partners AG (SIX: MOLN; NASDAQ: MOLN), a clinical-stage biotech company developing a new class of custom-built protein drugs known as DARPin therapeutics, today announced a research collaboration with University of Bern, to advance the development of the Company’s wholly owned acute myeloid leukemia (AML) candidate, MP0533, into the clinic. MP0533 is a DARPin designed to engage CD3 on T cells and target AML cells by the tumor associated antigens (TAAs) CD33, CD123 and CD70. The collaboration aims to leverage Molecular Partners’ proprietary DARPin technology and the University of Bern group’s expertise in AML, and specifically in leukemic stem cells (LSC), a hard-to-target cancer progenitor cell population.

“AML is a fast-progressing cancer with a high mortality rate. Current treatments carry high safety risks and can be very harsh, especially for older and frail patients. Our preclinical results so far show MP0533 to be highly specific, fast acting and with a wide therapeutic window, and we hope these traits will translate well for patients in need,” said Nicolas Leupin, M.D., Ph.D., Molecular Partner’s CMO. “Our new collaboration with the Bern team provides us with access to advanced AML methodologies and patient samples, and, more importantly, guidance from two of the world’s leading AML researchers, who have previously helped develop anti-CD70 antibodies to the clinic and can share from their invaluable experience.”

The Bern team is led by Prof. Adrian Ochsenbein, M.D., Chairman, Department of Medical Oncology, and Prof. Carsten Riether, Ph.D., who study the interaction of immune cells and leukemic cancer cells to develop improved immunotherapies for different types of cancer. Prof. Ochsenbein won the prestigious 2016 Otto Naegeli Prize for breakthrough research on CD70/CD27 signaling with therapeutic potential for cancer patients. The two professors’ main research focus is the so-called LSC. These cells are considered the origin of the disease and responsible for relapse after successful chemotherapy. Under the agreement, the researchers will work with Molecular Partners to investigate the effect and mechanism of action of the Company’s DARPin candidate T-cell engager (TCE) in AML, using in vitro and in vivo models, as well as patient samples.

“The main reason AML is so hard to treat is a small population of therapy-resistant leukemia stem cells, which drives the relapse of the disease after initial successful treatment. Novel therapies will have to aim at targeting and eliminating these treatment-resistant LSCs,” said Professor Ochsenbein. “We are excited to join forces with Molecular Partners to work to evaluate this novel therapeutic option. Hopefully, emerging therapeutics like MP0533 will be able to provide a much-needed solution for AML patients.”