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Advaxis collaborates with Biocon for 'ADXS-HPV' cancer immunotherapy

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Princeton-based Advaxis Inc., a company making cancer therapies based on stimulating the body's immune system, is collaborating with Asian biotech Biocon Ltd. to develop and commercialize its lead drug candidate, ADXS-HPV, in India and emerging markets.

ADXS-HPV is being developed to treat cancers associated with human papillomavirus, including cervical cancer, for which Advaxis plans to initiate late-stage studies this year. The vaccine is also being developed to treat head and neck cancer and anal cancer at earlier stages of clinical trials.

Advaxis CEO Daniel O'Connor said the partnership announced Wednesday with Biocon is critical because HPV associated cancers are most prevalent in developing nations. Women suffering from cervical cancer in India have few options, O'Connor said.

"The agreement gives us reach into key markets where the number of patients with HPV-associated cancers is overwhelming," O'Connor said in a statement.

As part of the agreement, Bangalore, India-based Biocon will also have access to Advaxis' proprietary technology in hopes of developing new therapies to meet additional unmet needs.

Biocon president of research and development Abhijit Barve said the company is encouraged by clinical data showing that ADXS-HPV can potentially offer a safe and effective alternative to chemotherapy.

Cervical cancer is one of the most frequent cancers among women in India. Advaxis said about 134,000 women are diagnosed with the disease annually and nearly 73,000 die from it. About 90 percent of new cases of cervical cancer worldwide occur in developing countries in Asia and Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Under terms of the agreement, Advaxis will provide exclusive commercialization rights for ADXS-HPV to Biocon for India and certain emerging markets for all HPV-associated cancers. Advaxis will manufacture and supply ADXS-HPV to Biocon.

The agreement comes one month after Advaxis announced a similar partnership with Taiwanese biotech Global BioPharma to develop and commercialize ADXS-HPV in parts of Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union.

The partnership with Biocon also came one day after Advaxis announced it has enrolled its first patient in a clinical study evaluating ADXS-HPV for the treatment of head and neck cancer. The study, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is intended to enroll 25 patients with human papillomavirus.

Shares of Advaxis rose 5 percent, or 25 cents, to $5.34 in Wednesday afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.

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