2018.07.18PolyU – Axis Therapeutics Joint Center for Immunotherapy launched to develop Innovative Cancer Treatments

Ir Professor Ping-kong Alexander WAI, Vice President (Research Development) of PolyU (front row, center); Dr Johnson LAU, Chairman and CEO of Athenex, Inc. (front row, left); and Mr YongHui WANG, Chairman and CEO of Xiangxue Pharmaceutical PolyU Council Chairman Mr Tze-ching CHAN; Professor Timothy W. TONG, President of PolyU (5th & 3rd from right, back row) joined other guests to witness the MoU signing for establishing the PolyU—Axis Therapeutics Joint Center for Immunotherapy Professor Larry CHOW, Professor, Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology (ABCT), PolyU (middle); Dr Vincent KENG, Associate Professor, ABCT (left); and Dr Raymond YEUNG, General Manager, Athenex HK Innovative Ltd.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) will join forces with Axis Therapeutics, a newly established joint venture by two global biopharmaceutical companies – Athenex, Inc. and Xiangxue Pharmaceutical, to foster the research and development of translational medicine by setting up a Joint Center for Immunotherapy. The Center is set to conduct collaborative research on cancer immunotherapy, with an aim to develop new cancer treatments.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony for setting up the PolyU—Axis Therapeutics Joint Center for Immunotherapy was held today (18 July 2018). The MoU was signed by Ir Professor Ping-kong Alexander WAI, Vice President (Research Development) of PolyU; Dr Johnson LAU, Chairman and CEO of Athenex, Inc.; and Mr YongHui WANG, Chairman and CEO of Xiangxue Pharmaceutical and CEO of Xiangxue Life Sciences. The ceremony was witnessed by Mr Tze-ching CHAN, Council Chairman of PolyU; Professor Timothy W. TONG, President of PolyU; Mr ZHANG Zong Ming, Deputy Inspector, Department of Educational, Scientific and Technological Affairs, Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.; Dr ZENG Lu, Director of Guangdong Academy of Science and Technology Service; as well as a number of industry leaders.

Addressing at the MoU signing ceremony, Mr Tze-ching CHAN said this collaboration would add on PolyU's continuous efforts and achievements in biotechnology development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). PolyU is committed in the innovation and technology development of translational medicine, as well as transferring pioneering research to real-life applications for the benefits of mankind. Over the years, the University has been engaging in the first three new drugs developed in Hong Kong which have succeeded in getting Investigational New Drug (IND) application approval of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that harnesses the body's immune system to combat tumors. Researchers have struggled for decades to make it work and results have raised hope that immunotherapy will give new options for some types of cancer treatments. Cancer immunotherapy was chosen as "Breakthrough of the Year for 2013" in Science magazine.

In cancer treatment, T-cell receptor-engineered T cells (TCR-T) and Chimeric Antigen Receptor-engineered T-cells (CAR-T) are the cancer immunotherapy technologies. Since T-cells possess the ability to target specific internal tumor antigens, they play an essential role in cell-mediated immunity by defending human bodies against foreign pathogens or autologous tumor cells. Based on the novel approach on high-affinity TCR developed by Xiangxue Life Sciences, the Center will focus on the research and development, as well as commercialization, of TCR-T and CAR-T based cancer immunotherapy.

Professor Ping-kong Alexander WAI remarked, "Partnerships between academia and industry have been very fruitful, leading to significant innovations in the form of medicines and better treatments. In this collaboration, PolyU will provide our full support for the research on novel technologies and genetics models to develop cancer immunotherapy technologies based on TCR-T and CAR-T."

Dr Johnson LAU said the companies are particularly excited about the potential synergies created by the collaboration. "The collaboration on cancer immunotherapy technology will further complement and enhance our innovation in oncology. We look forward to working closely with PolyU in bringing this novel immunotherapy technology to patients in Hong Kong and across the globe."

Mr YongHui WANG said, "We are expecting to explore a new and promising immunotherapy technology in the global scene. The new generation TCR-T, named HATac, is a breakthrough technology. The development of this technology in collaboration with our new partners holds great promise for the treatment of solid tumors. PolyU has demonstrated leadership in academia and proven to be at the forefront of collaboration with the industry to translate biotechnology research and development initiatives into products that can be developed in a commercial scale."

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)

PolyU has made significant progress in contributing towards the biotechnology development in Hong Kong with various ongoing biotechnology and translational medicine projects, including the Respiratory Virus Research Foundation jointly established by PolyU and The University of Hong Kong; the Joint Institute of Translational Medicine established jointly with the government of Banan District of Chongqing City; the life sciences and engineering research and development platform with Fraunhofer Group for Life Sciences; as well as various projects on anti-cancer drug, genomics research and clinical devices. These projects involve the development of multi-potent anti-cancer drug Pegtomarginase, and the Apigenin Flavonoid Dimer which inhibits multidrug resistance (MDR) in cancer cells.

This year, PolyU initiated the first Greater Bay Area Biotechnology and Translational Medicine International Collaboration in collaboration with 5 universities/institutes to jointly advance the biotechnology development at a global scale. One of the participating institutes, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (RPCCC), is globally leading in the areas of tumor immunology, cancer genetics and genomics, biophysical oncology, cancer prevention/epidemiology and cancer therapeutics development. They are exploring respective projects with PolyU.

For more information, please visit: www.polyu.edu.hk


Athenex, Inc

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in New York, Athenex, Inc. is a global clinical stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of next-generation cancer drugs. It was listed in NASDAQ Stock Market in 2017 (stock code: ATNX).

For more information, please visit: www.athenex.com


Guangzhou Xiangxue Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (XPH)

Founded in 1997 and located in Guangzhou Science City, Guangzhou Economic & Technical Development District, XPH is a high-tech enterprise integrating manufacturing, operation and R&D of products including pharmaceuticals, biological medicine, functional food, Chinese medicines and medical devices. XPH is recognized as one of the pharmaceutical enterprises with most development potential in China and was listed in Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2010 (stock code: 300147).

For more information, please visit www.xphcn.com


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Dr Terence Lok-ting Lau

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