Independently founded in 2001 with technology licensed from Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) Technologies, which is the venture development subsidiary of BCM, Opexa Therapeutics has grown substantially. Based in the Woodlands, Texas, the company conducts all business operations for its personalized T-cell immunotherapeutic platform on site. “We run the gamut of activities under one roof with 40 people in the Woodlands,” described Neil Warma, President and CEO of Opexa, in an exclusive interview with BioNews Texas. “We have grown tremendously in our understanding of commercial manufacture for autoimmune therapies.”
The primary focus of Opexa is its personalized immunotherapeutic platform known as Tcelna. Its lead indication is multiple sclerosis, both relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). Clinical trials to date from both BCM (pre-licensing stages) and Opexa set the optimal dosing regimen for treatment and explored treatment in over 300 patients with multiple sclerosis.
Warma recently attended the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting, where Opexa’s Director of Immunology, Dr. Lauren W. Collison, presented data that profiled the immune systems of patients with neuromyelitis optica (NMO). The study was conducted to expand Opexa’s ImmPath platform (the basis for Tcelna) to a wider population outside RRMS and SPMS through its NMO program with OPX-212. At the meeting, Opexa was joined by a collaborator in multiple sclerosis research, Merck Serono, who recently contributed $3 million to support the Tcelna program. “It’s exciting to be alongside Merck Serono at conferences, speaking enthusiastically about Opexa,” said Warma. “The conference focused a lot on multiple sclerosis, and there were questions about our fully enrolled trial, building excitement for those results next year. It is encouraging and exciting for us, and I enjoyed the meeting.”
Opexa is receiving more and more recognition as a late-stage company with advanced immunotherapies that hold potential to treat a range of autoimmune conditions. Last year, Warma was asked to join the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Board of Directors, honoring him as the only Texas-based representative. This year, Opexa was invited to present at the 17th Annual BIO CEO & Investor Conference.
Throughout the company’s success, the employees at Opexa have been keeping the patients they develop treatments for at the forefront of their thoughts. “We sponsor a few multiple sclerosis walks around Houston each year,” said Warma. “We interact with patients who are in truly desperate situations, as there are no treatments for SPMS. With 30-40% of multiple sclerosis patients diagnosed with SPMS, the unmet need is substantial, and interacting with patients drives that point home.” With the end of the Abili-T trial coming to a close in the second half of 2016, Opexa is well on the way to developing novel treatments to help these patients.