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Asterias Announces Clinical Grade Lot Released to Support Dosing of First Subjects in First Clinical Study of AST-VAC2
-Release of clinical grade lot of AST-VAC2 is key step in Cancer Research UK’s initiation of clinical study in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer -

FREMONT, Calif., April 25, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. (NYSE American:AST), a biotechnology company dedicated to developing cell-based therapeutics to treat neurological conditions associated with demyelination and cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer, today announced that Cancer Research UK has released the first cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) clinical grade lot of AST-VAC2 to be used to dose subjects enrolling into the first clinical study evaluating AST-VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer.

“With the release of the first clinical grade lot of AST-VAC2 the first-in-human clinical trial of AST-VAC2 is expected to be initiated soon,” stated Mr. Michael Mulroy, President and Chief Executive Officer. “With its potential as a ready-to-administer, off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy, AST-VAC2 represents an exciting opportunity for Asterias to be more fully recognized as a participant in the rapidly evolving immuno-oncology sector.”
Investigational therapies intended for human clinical applications must be manufactured in accordance with cGMP standards designed to help assure the safety and potency of drug products. To achieve cGMP standards, a product must be manufactured and released according to rigorous systems designed to ensure appropriate control of manufacturing facilities, equipment, raw materials, processes and testing procedures. Under the company’s agreement with Cancer Research UK, Asterias has transferred its innovative laboratory scale AST-VAC2 manufacturing process to Cancer Research UK’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit, which has developed, optimized and validated the process for cGMP manufacture and is responsible for producing cGMP AST-VAC2 for use in the upcoming Phase 1 clinical study in non-small cell lung cancer.

With the release of the clinical lot of AST-VAC2, the Company anticipates three sites opening for this study shortly and the first subjects to be dosed in the first half of 2018. As currently designed, the study will enroll up to 24 subjects into one of two cohorts, depending on the stage of each subject’s non-small cell lung cancer. 

AST-VAC2 is a “first-in-class” allogeneic cancer immunotherapy that is composed of mature dendritic cells which are designed to kill tumor cells by stimulating immune responses to telomerase, a tumor antigen expressed by over 85% of malignant tumor cells. AST-VAC2 is intended to be available for “on demand” patient use because it is produced from allogeneic pluripotent stem cells that can be manufactured in scale and then cryopreserved.

AST-VAC2 is a platform cancer immunotherapy that could be investigated as a potential therapeutic for many cancer indications and for targeting of many antigens. The results from the Phase 1 clinical trial sponsored by Cancer Research UK could be used to support advanced clinical studies in one or more of the following areas:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Other indications showing high levels of telomerase activity and susceptibility to immunotherapy
  • In combination with check point or immune pathway inhibitors
  • In combination with additional antigens, including those arising from the exciting new field of tumor neoantigens

About AST-VAC2

AST-VAC2 is an innovative immunotherapy product that contains mature dendritic cells derived from pluripotent stem cells. These non-patient specific (allogeneic) AST-VAC2 cells are engineered to express a modified form of telomerase, a protein widely expressed in tumor cells, but rarely found in normal cells. The modified form of telomerase invokes enhanced stimulation of immune responses to the protein. Similar to an earlier, Asterias-sponsored, hematological cancer program which provided proof-of-concept data, the AST-VAC2 dendritic cells instruct the immune system to generate responses against telomerase and, through this mechanism,  target tumor cells. AST-VAC2 is based on a specific mode of action that is complementary to and potentially synergistic with other immune therapies such as checkpoint inhibitors or other immune pathway inhibitors.

About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and the AST-VAC2 Trial

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the leading cause of cancer-related death, accounting for about one-quarter of all cancer deaths and more than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for about 80% to 85% of lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The three main types of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2017 are: about 222,500 new cases of lung cancer, and about 155,870 deaths from lung cancer. Despite the large number of people afflicted by non-small cell lung cancer, patients remain vastly underserved due to a scarcity of effective treatments. According to statistics published by Cancer Research UK, the five year survival rate for lung cancer patients in England and Wales is less than 10%.

As currently designed, the AST-VAC2 Phase 1 clinical trial will enroll up to twenty-four subjects into one of two cohorts, depending on the stage of their non-small cell lung cancer. The first cohort will evaluate AST-VAC2 in up to 12 subjects with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Subjects in this cohort, who carry the major histocompatibility gene, HLA-A2, will receive six weekly injections of AST-VAC2 and will be followed for safety, immune responses to telomerase and overall clinical survival. These survival results will be compared directly to a control group who meet all of the other inclusion/exclusion criteria but do not possess the HLA-A2 gene. Assuming safety is demonstrated in the first cohort, enrollment will advance to a second cohort. In the second cohort, early stage subjects who have had successful resection of their tumor with no evidence of metastasis will be enrolled. Up to 12 subjects in this second cohort who carry the major histocompatibility allele HLA-A2 will receive six, weekly injections of AST-VAC2 and will be followed for safety, immune responses to telomerase, overall clinical survival and time to relapse. These survival results will again be compared directly to a control group who meet all of the inclusion/exclusion criteria of cohort 2 but are not HLA-A2+. Subjects will be followed for one year for immune response to telomerase and for 2 years for the survival endpoints. Asterias and Cancer Research UK are exploring the combination of AST-VAC2 with an immune pathway inhibitor.

About Asterias Biotherapeutics

Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company dedicated to developing cell-based therapeutics to treat neurological conditions associated with demyelination and cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer. Asterias is presently focused on advancing three clinical-stage programs which have the potential to address areas of very high unmet medical need in the fields of neurology and oncology. AST-OPC1 (oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) is currently in a Phase 1/2a dose escalation clinical trial in spinal cord injury. AST-VAC1 (antigen-presenting autologous dendritic cells) is an autologous cancer immunotherapy with promising efficacy and safety data from a Phase 2 study in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). AST-VAC2 (antigen-presenting allogeneic dendritic cells) represents a second generation, allogeneic cancer immunotherapy. The company's research partner, Cancer Research UK, plans to begin a first-in-human clinical trial of AST-VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer. Additional information about Asterias can be found at www.asteriasbiotherapeutics.com.   

About Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.  Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.  Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.  Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.


Statements pertaining to future financial and/or operating and/or clinical research results, future growth in research, technology, clinical development, and potential opportunities for Asterias, along with other statements about the future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans, or prospects expressed by management constitute forward-looking statements. Any statements that are not historical fact (including, but not limited to statements that contain words such as "will," "believes," "plans," "anticipates," "expects," "estimates," “explores”) should also be considered to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in the development and/or commercialization of potential products, uncertainty in the results of clinical trials or regulatory approvals, need and ability to obtain future capital, and maintenance of intellectual property rights. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements and as such should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect the businesses of Asterias, particularly those mentioned in the cautionary statements found in Asterias' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Asterias disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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