Company Prepares for HIV Vaccine Trial
Durham, NC– Oct. 5, 2004 – Merix Bioscience today announced the change of its name to Argos Therapeutics, Inc. Additionally, the company stated that it is preparing for an HIV clinical trial with Argos’ proprietary RNA-loaded dendritic cell vaccine.
“This change in name reflects the evolution and success of our technology platform,” said Clint Dederick, Jr., chairman and CEO of Argos Therapeutics. “With our patented technology, a clinical trial underway for renal cancer and a clinical trial scheduled to begin for HIV, we’ve entered into an exciting new chapter for our company. We’re focused on providing new therapies that will offer patients around the globe a new promise for treating diseases, and a better quality of life during the treatment.”
Several prominent events, including two this year, have brought Argos to this juncture.
In March 2004, Argos (then Merix) entered into an agreement with Geron in which Argos received 5 million shares of Geron stock, valued at over $43 million. In exchange, Geron was granted the co-exclusive right to use Argos’ platform technology in specific therapeutic cancer vaccines using telomerase and other defined antigens. Argos’ technology obtained significant validation when Geron announced that the telomerase cancer vaccine induced vigorous immune responses without side effects in a Phase I/II clinical trial recently completed at Duke University Medical Center.
In June 2004, Argos and Kirin Brewery’s Pharmaceutical Division entered into a collaboration to develop and commercialize dendritic cell vaccines in the areas of cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders and transplantation. As part of the agreement, Kirin made an equity investment in Argos and each party will contribute an estimated $45-65M during the first three years of the collaboration.
Additionally, Argos began a clinical trial in June 2004, focusing on the treatment of renal (kidney) cancer. Results for this phase I/II trial are anticipated in 2005. According to Charles Nicolette, Ph.D., vice president of Research and Development for Argos, in addition to cancers, the Argos personalized vaccine therapy is well suited for diseases that affect the body’s immune system.
“Our patented RNA-loaded DC vaccine technology provides a substantial competitive advantage in the field of antiviral vaccination,” said Nicolette. “Argos has already generated an HIV vaccine and an investigator-sponsored trial is expected to begin early next year at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam. ”
The Argos vaccine is novel in that it involves personalizing the treatment to the person’s own strain of virus, including the quasi species that infect any given patient with HIV. The company recently filed a patent application covering its HIV vaccine technology.
“Previously tested HIV vaccines have not proven to control the viral infection and did not effectively target mutant viral subspecies that exist in the patient,” explained Nicolette. “We believe our Argos personalized RNA-loaded DC vaccine is uniquely suited for treating HIV because the virus mutates so rapidly from one person to another that no two individuals have the same disease sequence. Our therapy is capable of generating anti-viral immune responses perfectly matched to a patient’s viral species.”
To make the personalized HIV vaccine, a small amount of plasma from an infected patient is used to amplify the RNA encoding four HIV antigens derived from the patient’s own infectious virus variants. The RNA is then loaded into dendritic cells, made from the patients own blood cells, and this creates the vaccine which is personalized for each patient’s specific disease. The vaccine activates the patient’s immune system to recognize and fight the various strains of the HIV virus infecting the patient.
The company also launched a newly-designed website, detailing its technology platform and different disease categories for which it is developing immunotherapies: www.argostherapeutics.com
Argos Therapeutics, Inc., formerly Merix Bioscience, is dedicated to becoming a market leader in the field of immunotherapy. By using proprietary technology and proven therapeutic methods and expertise in dendritic cell biology, Argos is developing the next generation of therapies in the areas of oncology, infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders and transplantation. Our focus is bringing to market therapeutic options that not only offer new promise for treatment of intractable diseases, but also an improved safety profile and better patient quality of life during treatment. Please visit us at www.argostherapeutics.com
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This news release may contain forward-looking statements made pursuant to the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements in this press release regarding potential applications of Argos’ technology constitute forward-looking statements involving risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in the development and commercialization of potential products, reliance on collaborators, need for additional capital, need for regulatory approvals or clearances, and the maintenance of our intellectual property rights. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements.
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