LLS’s Therapy Acceleration Program Accelerates Progress for Patients

By Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, LLS President and Chief Executive Officer | November, 2020

In 2007, when I served as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Chief Scientific Officer, I conceived and launched the LLS venture philanthropy initiative, the Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP). Our goal was to expand beyond traditional research grants and to bring much-needed therapies into clinical studies faster. And I’m pleased to share we’ve made a real impact.

LLS TAP has provided more than $125 million to support more than 60 highly innovative projects by partnering with companies and research institutions. The results are compelling: three LLS TAP-supported therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Celator’s CPX-351 (Vyxeos®), Kite Pharma’s axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta®), and Stemline’s tagraxofusp-erzs (Elzonris®). These breakthrough treatments changed the landscape of cancer care and are now providing hope for patients who previously had limited treatment options.

We invite you to learn about this innovative venture philanthropy program that’s accelerating cures for patients. Join us on December 4 at 12 p.m. ET for a virtual event titled “Value Creation for Companies though LLS TAP: Dollars & Beyond.”

During this event, leaders of TAP partner companies will share their experiences:

  • Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Chief Executive Officer, argenx

Today we have more than 20 therapies in the LLS TAP portfolio — the majority of which are in clinical trials, including five ongoing or planned FDA registration-enabling studies.

More than money: LLS TAP provides other critical resources to help advance drug candidates

In addition to critical funding, LLS TAP partners benefit from our deep knowledge of blood cancer and our unique scientific, clinical, and drug development expertise. LLS also provides a keen understanding of patients’ needs and immediate access to LLS’s extensive network of research, clinical, and regulatory experts.

Many LLS TAP partner companies have successfully progressed candidates by raising capital, partnering clinical development with larger companies, and acquiring their drug candidate or other companies.

Most recently, LLS TAP portfolio company, Forty Seven, Inc., generated exciting clinical data with its lead asset, magrolimab, in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). This led to the company’s acquisition by Gilead Sciences, Inc. for $4.9 billion. The LLS support at the heart of the Forty Seven-Gilead deal began almost a decade ago, with grant funding to support preclinical work by Irving Weissman, PhD, and Ravindra Majeti, MD, PhD, at Stanford University. Their groundbreaking work showed that blocking the CD47 protein on lymphoma and leukemia cells allows the immune system to recognize and attack these cancers.

LLS TAP leveraged this early research with a 2017 partnership with Forty Seven, the company founded by Drs. Majeti and Weissman. With TAP funding, the company was able to clinically explore magrolimab, a CD47-targeting monoclonal antibody, for the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and follicular lymphoma. Last summer, LLS TAP further expanded the partnership by making an equity investment in Forty Seven to support the clinical study of magrolimab in patients with MDS. Now, the drug is being studied in a registration-enabling clinical trial for MDS and has received FDA Breakthrough Therapy designation.

Partner companies will join us to discuss LLS TAP’s impact on accelerating research programs; many also presenting data at upcoming ASH meeting

Kura Oncology and Constellation Pharmaceuticals will both present exciting clinical data via oral presentations at the upcoming American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, illustrating the impact LLS TAP has had on these two programs. The CEOs from both companies will be participating in the Value Creation for Companies though LLS TAP: Dollars & Beyond panel on December 4.

Kura Oncology benefited from a significant LLS investment in the work of Jolanta Grembecka, PhD, at the University of Michigan. Supported through a series of research grants and a large TAP investment, Dr. Grembecka developed small molecule lead candidates for the treatment of a rare and lethal subtype of leukemia associated with abnormalities in the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene. These MLL leukemias can occur both in children and adults, but are particularly prevalent in infants and lead to very poor outcomes. In 2014, LLS introduced Dr. Grembecka and her research program to Kura Oncology, ultimately leading to an exclusive licensing agreement. The very first clinical data will be presented during this year’s ASH conference.

LLS TAP began its partnership with Constellation Pharmaceuticals eight years ago on a high-risk, early-stage project to support clinical development of CPI-0610, a small molecule candidate that inhibits a family of BET proteins. Support from LLS was key to better understanding how epigenetic modifications, small chemical changes that switch genes on and off, in cancer cells affect disease progression. LLS TAP supported Constellation’s three Phase 1 trials in a broad range of blood cancers and was instrumental in finding clinicians to study the drug in patients with myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer characterized by a buildup of abnormal cells and fibers in the bone marrow. A Phase 2 trial update in the myelofibrosis patients will be presented at the ASH meeting and a Phase 3 trial is expected to begin enrolling myelofibrosis patients by the end of 2020.

BioTheryX and Kymera Therapeutics will both present posters at the ASH meeting. BioTheryx was the first equity investment made through LLS TAP back in 2010 and is currently developing a therapy called BTX-A51 for patients with relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or high-risk MDS. Earlier this year, TAP completed an equity investment in Kymera to support the preclinical development of several therapies that work by destroying key proteins driving the cancer. To read more about Kymera click here.

Other companies participating in the panel are argenx and X4 Pharmaceuticals.

In 2014, LLS TAP partnered with argenx, one of TAP’s first European partners, to support the clinical development of ARGX-110 (cusatuzumab), a monoclonal antibody directed against a protein known as CD70. Cusatuzumab is currently in multiple mid-stage clinical trials for AML and MDS.

In 2019, LLS TAP invested in X4 Pharmaceuticals to support the clinical development of mavorixafor, a novel oral therapy being tested in combination with ibrutinib in patients with Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

These are just a few examples of LLS TAP’s impact on clinical development for blood cancer patients. If you are interested in hearing directly from TAP partners about the impact LLS TAP has made beyond the dollars, please join our panel discussion on December 4.

Learn more about TAP, including our portfolio and how to apply, today.

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The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.