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ImmuPharma dips as cancer arm collaboration talks stall (IMM)

ImmuPharma (LSE:IMM) dipped by more than 10pc to 10.2p on Monday after announcing further uncertainty around the future of its cancer operations.

The specialist drug company signed a heads of terms for a clinical development programme on its Nucant cancer programme with a specialist oncology business called Incanthera in September last year. This saw it purchase a 16pc position in Incanthera for £2m and grant it a period of exclusivity until 31 December 2018, later delayed until 31 March.

Incanthera was due to finalise definitive licence agreement for the Nucant technology during this period. This was expected to see the organisation make a £1m licence payment to ImmuPharma, paid in shares, and take over all development costs for the Nucant programme. The two outfits were also expected to agree on splitting all future commercialisation revenues for the drug equally.

However, in Monday’s update, ImmuPharma announced that a definitive licence agreement has still not been concluded between the two firms. The business, which has struggled to gain traction since its flagship Lupus medication Lupuzor was blocked by the US health regulator last year, added that Incanthera’s exclusivity period has now expired.

This means ImmuPharma is now free to discuss collaborations with other parties around Nucant. However, it said discussions with Incanthera are continuing ‘in good faith’ for a broader collaboration.

‘There can be no guarantee that any agreement will be reached with Incanthera on a broader collaboration,’ it added. ‘If an agreement is reached, the company will make a further announcement.’

Nucant is planned for use in combination cancer treatments, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. The medication has passed the first phase of clinical trials.

Monday’s update follows a recent release by ImmuPharma that saw it announce that attempts to get Lupuzor to the market are ongoing. The firm said it is continuing to engage with potential corporate partners that can support the full release of Lupuzor, designed to treat autoimmune disease lupus, over the longer term.

The drug failed its pivotal Phase II trial last April after its superior response rate in a double-blind trial was not deemed to be ‘statistically significant’. As a result, Lupuzor failed to meet the trial’s endpoint, leading ImmuPharma’s shares to collapse by 74.7pc.

As well as searching for partners, the business is in final preparations for a managed access program (MAP) for the drug. The MAP, which is being funded by ImmuPharma’s existing cash resources, will give up to 500 eligible patients in Europe early access to the medication for a minimum of two years, before any regulatory filings.

The programme is longer, more extensive and cheaper than the Phase III trial, which cost c.€10m and was carried out on 200 patients for twelve months. It also gives ImmuPharma access to ongoing results rather than having to wait until the programme has completed.

Elsewhere, the organisation said it is continuing to look at ways to progress the assets owned by its Bordeaux-based subsidiary Ureka. Ureka is focusing on transforming peptides into efficient drugs for treatments in therapeutic areas including Type II diabetes and Non-Alcoholic-Steato-Hepatitis.

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