Oxford, UK-based Celleron Therapeutics has signed a licensing agreement with Roche for exclusive rights to emactuzumab, a monoclonal antibody and tumour microenvironment modulator.

Emactuzumab is designed to target and deplete macrophages in tumour tissue, and has demonstrated efficacy in diffuse tenosynovial giant cell tumour (TGCT), a rare disease where benign tumours grow around joints and tendons.

Roche has previously investigated the drug in combination with its other immunotherapy products, including PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab), in solid tumour patients. Despite studying the drug across four trials, Roche ultimately shelved emactuzumab in 2018 in what it called a “business decision”.

Celleron has built a proprietary platform around epigenetic control and immune modulation, with it will no doubt use as it takes emactuzumab into the clinic.

The UK biopharma company also has a global license partnership with AstraZeneca for CXD101, a HDAC inhibitor that has demonstrated clinically important tumour remissions in a Phase I trial.

“We are very excited to be working on emactuzumab. Celleron’s commitment to developing transformative and novel therapies will ultimately allow emactuzumab to be brought to patients suffering from TGCT, which remains a very debilitating disease with limited clinical options,” said Professor Nick La Thangue, Chief Executive Officer of Celleron.