The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) has announced that the team behind the development of Gazyvaro (obinutuzumab) has won the prestigious Drug Discovery of the Year 2015 award. The molecule that became Gazyvaro, the first glycoengineered type II anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, was discovered and developed by a team led by Dr Pablo Umaña, Head of Discovery Oncology, Roche Innovation Center Zurich (Roche Glycart AG).1 Following the discovery, a network of colleagues at Roche developed and executed the extensive clinical trials programme that led to its licencing, including the pivotal chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL11) trial designed run in close co-operation with the German CLL study group.2
Gazyvaro is licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in combination with chlorambucil for the treatment of previously-untreated adult patients with CLL and co-existing medical conditions who are unsuitable for full-dose fludarabine-based therapy.3 It has the ability to kill cancer cells directly by seeking them out and attaching to them. In addition, the treatment is able to alert the body’s immune system to ‘enemy’ cancer cells, allowing immune cells to attack and destroy the cells more effectively than other treatments such as MabThera (rituximab) (this is known as antibody- dependent cellular cytotoxicity).1
Pablo Umaña, Head of Discovery Oncology, Roche Innovation Center Zurich (Roche Glycart AG) said: “We are extremely pleased to receive this award for such an important development in the haematology field. With Gazyvaro, our aim was to design a unique antibody that kills cancer cells directly and engages the patient’s own immune cells to help attack the cancerous cells, and we have achieved this. Following years of dedicated research, we have played a significant role in revolutionizing the treatment of blood cancers.”
Jayson Dallas, General Manager, Roche UK, said: “It is wonderful news that the great work carried out by the scientists at Roche has been recognised by the British Pharmacological Society. What’s most encouraging is that patients are now beginning to be able to benefit from innovative medicines such as Gazyvaro thanks to our close working with health bodies.”
1. Mössner E, Brünker P, Moser S, et al. Increasing the efficacy of CD20 antibody therapy through the engineering of a new type II anti-CD20 antibody with enhanced direct and immune effector cell mediated B-cell cytotoxicity. Blood 2010; 115:4393-4402.
2. CLL11 study: Study number NCT01010061. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01010061. Last accessed December 2014.
3. Gazyvaro (obinutuzumab). Summary of Product Characteristics. Available via www.medicines.org. Last accessed: December 2014.