Oblato, Inc., has acquired all rights from OMRF to OKN-007, an investigational drug for the treatment of glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer.
“There is currently no cure for glioblastoma, and the development of new treatments is a very important unmet need,” said Oblato President and Chief Executive Officer Won S. Yang, Ph.D.
Under a 2016 option agreement, Oblato exercised its rights to the compound, which was developed by OMRF scientists Rheal Towner, Ph.D., and Robert Floyd, Ph.D.
OKN-007 has been evaluated as a novel therapeutic that protects nerves and reduces both necrosis and glioblastoma cell proliferation by eliminating reactive oxygen species, a known cause of cancer. In studies at OMRF, the drug reduced tumor size and increased lifespan in animal models of glioblastoma.
An estimated 12,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year, according to the American Brain Tumor Foundation. The standard treatment regimen involves surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Still, the tumor almost always grows back.
With treatment, the median survival is 12 to 18 months, and only 1 in 20 glioblastoma patients will live five years. Earlier this year, Sen. John McCain died from glioblastoma, which also took the life of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“Right now, there is no effective treatment for glioblastoma,” said OMRF Vice President of Technology Ventures Manu Nair. “We hope that OKN-007 can change those numbers for the better.”
OKN-007 has undergone phase I-B clinical testing at the University of Oklahoma’s Stephenson Cancer Center, where physicians assessed its safety in patients suffering from glioblastoma.
Those trials have been led by James Battiste, M.D., Ph.D., “We’ve gone to the highest dosage levels the FDA would allow, and we haven’t seen any negative effects from the drug,” he said.
Mike Schuster, a glioblastoma patient from Norman, Okla., has been receiving infusions of OKN-007 at the Stephenson Center for more than two years. “I’ve had no side effects at all,” he said. “I feel really good.” Schuster is now nearing the three-year anniversary of his diagnosis, double the life expectancy for patients with glioblastoma.
Oblato will initiate additional trials to study the efficacy and safety of this investigational drug in larger patient populations. At this time, OKN-007 is administered as an infusion, but the company also has plans to develop an oral form of the drug.
“Oblato will conduct glioblastoma clinical trials on patients in the U.S. and will work to develop this new drug worldwide,” said Won. “With our history of work in the orphan drug market, this new drug fits well into our portfolio.”
Since 2014, Oblato’s parent company, GtreeBNT, has been focusing on the development and commercialization of biopharmaceutical drugs, particularly first-in-class medications for ophthalmic indications, such as dry eye disease and the orphan ocular disease neurotrophic keratopathy.
“GtreeBNT’s focus on rare and orphan disease indications makes it an attractive partner to help us take the next steps in getting this drug to market,” said Nair. “OMRF and Oblato have the same ultimate goal: to see OKN-007 benefit patients living with this terrible disease.”