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Ultimovacs initiates Phase II trial

Carlos de Sousa

Ultimovacs has announced the initiation of FOCUS, a Phase II randomized clinical trial that will evaluate the company’s universal cancer vaccine, UV1, in 75 patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer who will be treated with standard of care therapy pembrolizumab.

The trial will be conducted at 10 sites across Germany and led by principal investigator Prof. Mascha Binder, M.D., Medical Director and Head of the Immunological Tumor Group at University Medicine Halle, Germany. The FOCUS trial is Ultimovacs’ fourth Phase II clinical trial with UV1 and comes in addition to the collaboration Phase II trial announced in May 2020.

“We continue to strategically expand our clinical development program for our proprietary cancer vaccine, not only by testing UV1 in additional cancer indications with critical need, such as head and neck cancer, but also by collaborating with clinicians like Professor Binder who can provide us with unique insights,” states Jens Bjørheim, Chief Medical Officer at Ultimovacs. “Professor Binder and her team are well-recognized experts who will increase our understanding of UV1’s mechanism of action and contribute data on anti-tumor activity induced by UV1 vaccination.”

The FOCUS trial

The FOCUS (First-line metastatic Or recurrent HNSCC/Checkpoint inhibitor UV1 Study) Phase II trial is an investigator-sponsored, randomized Phase II clinical trial that will recruit patients with recurrent or metastatic PD-L1 positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma across 10 clinical sites in Germany. The trial will evaluate the addition of UV1 to a standard of care treatment with PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab as compared to pembrolizumab monotherapy. A total of 75 patients indicated for treatment with pembrolizumab will be enrolled in the FOCUS study, randomized 2-to-1 so that 50 patients will receive UV1 and pembrolizumab and 25 patients will receive pembrolizumab alone. The primary endpoint of the study is the progression-free survival rate at 6 months, and planned readout of topline results is expected in 2023. The FOCUS Phase II trial is partially supported through an innovation grant of up to NOK 16 million from the Norwegian Research Council and will not require Ultimovacs to secure additional financing at this stage.

“We have continued to build momentum in our broad clinical development program with the start of the FOCUS study, representing the important opportunity to test UV1 in combination with pembrolizumab in a randomized setting for the first time,” says Carlos de Sousa, Chief Executive Officer at Ultimovacs. “We welcome the funding provided by the Norwegian Research Council, which supports our ability as a small biotechnology company to conduct four Phase II trials in parallel and evaluate UV1 in different indications with more than 450 patients and as part of various treatment combinations. Although we have signed our agreement with the lead investigator for our previously announced third Phase II clinical trial, we will need to wait for the investigator and the pharmaceutical partner to finalize the signature process for their agreement before we can provide full details, which we expect to do before year end.”