GVN Center and Member Spotlight

June 25, 2021 – GVN SPOTLIGHT ON:

Yang Liu

Global Virus Network Board Member
Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer, OncoImmune

Pan Zheng

Global Virus Network Board Member
Founder, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, OncoImmune

Research careers of Drs. Yang Liu and Pan Zheng

Drs. Yang Liu and Pan Zheng were faculty members at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, while serving as Co-founders and Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer of OncoImmune, Inc. This is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company in Rockville, Maryland, USA. Drs. Liu and Zheng have discovered CD24-Siglec pathway as an important innate immune checkpoint that regulates inflammation to tissue injuries. Specifically, they developed CD24Fc that targets an inflammation trigger resulting from tissue injury. This product is for the treatment of inflammation associated with bone marrow transplantation and viral infections.

Contribution of their expertise to mitigating COVID-19

A Phase 3 clinical trial was conducted for CD24Fc to evaluate its use for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen support. The Phase III clinical trial was randomized, placebo-controlled and blinded to participants, the clinical teams, the investigators, and the sponsor. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who required oxygen supports, including those requiring supplemental air, high flow oxygen, and non-invasive ventilation were randomly assigned into two groups receiving either standard of care (SOC) plus placebo or SOC plus a single dose of CD24Fc. The pre-specified interim efficacy and safety analyses were performed when146 patients achieved clinical recovery from COVID-19, a milestone achieved with 203 enrollments. The trial was opened in April 2020 and was activated in 15 medical centers in the US.  The interim analysis shows safety and outstanding therapeutic efficacy of CD24Fc. The results indicate that patients who received SCD24Fc had a 60% better chance to achieve clinical recovery than those who received placebo (P=0.005). The median time to recovery was 6 days for patients treated with CD24Fc compared with 10 days in the placebo group. In addition, the risk of death or respiratory failure is reduced by more than 50%.  The trial was declared a success as the interim boundary of P=0.0147 was crossed. The therapeutic effects were substantiated when all 234 patients’ data were included for the analysis.

Professional Summary

Dr. Yang Liu received his undergraduate education in Wuhan University, and graduate studies, respectively, from Chinese Academy of Medical Science (MSc, 1985) and Australian National University (PhD, 1988).  After postdoctoral training at Yale University with Dr. Charles Janeway (1991), Dr. Liu started his independent academic career at New York University Medical Center (1992) where he received his tenure (1996).  He has since worked as endowed Professors in the Ohio State University (1998), University of Michigan (2006) and Children’s National Medical Center (2012) before serving as the Director of Division of Immunotherapy of the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine (2018) until November 2000.  Dr. Liu cofounded OncoImmune, Inc and led it until its acquisition by Merck, Inc.  In December 2000, Dr. Liu cofounded OncoC4, Inc with Dr. Pan Zheng, and served as its Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. Liu has published more than 200 peer-reviewed publications.  He was elected as Fellow of American Association for Advancement of Science in 2004. Dr. Liu is known for his pioneering contributions to innate immunity, T cell costimulation and tumor immunology.

Dr. Pan Zheng received her medical training from Peking Union Medical College (PUMC, 1979-1987), and PhD from Yale University (1989-1994), Endocrinology Residency in PUMC and Pathology Residency at New York University Medical Center (1994-1998). Dr. Zheng started her independent academic career in the Ohio State University Medical Center (1998) where she received tenure in 2003.  She has been on faculty as tenured Associate and Full Professor at University of Michigan (2006-2013), Endowed Professor at Children’s National Medical Center (2013-2017), and Professor University of Maryland School of Medicine (2018-2020). Dr. Zheng lasting’s impact in biological and medical research rooted on her fundamental research on hematology, innate immunity and cancer immunology, which was documented in more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, most of which are in high impact journals. Built on her academic success, Dr. Zheng devoted major effort in technology commercialization, serving as cofounder and part-time Chief Medical Officer for OncoImmune, Inc. until its acquisition by Merck, Inc. at the end of 2000.  After the acquisition, Dr. Zheng co-founded OncoC4, Inc. and serves as its full-time Chief-Medical Officer.

Overview of OncoC4

Drs Liu and Zheng work at OncoC4, Inc. a privately-held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company in Rockville, Maryland. The company is actively engaged in the discovery and development of novel biologicals for cancer treatment. OncoC4 is a spinout of OncoImmune that was acquired by Merck in December 2020. The product development pipeline focusing on best-in-class and first-in-class immunotherapies for oncology.

OncoC4’s lead clinical candidate is ONC-392, a next generation anti-CTLA-4 antibody capable of uncoupling the cancer therapeutic effects from immunotherapy-related adverse effects. A first-in-human Phase I clinical trial for ONC-392 was initiated in 2020 and is currently enrolling cancer patients to assess the safety, pharmacokinetics, and efficacy of ONC-392 as a single agent in advanced solid tumors and in combination with anti-PD(L)1 standard of care in Non- Small Cell Lung Cancer (PRESERVE-001, NCT04140526).

OncoC4’s new products represent new paradigms of therapeutic targeting of not only adaptive immune checkpoints including CTLA-4 and PD-L1, but also innate immune checkpoint CD24-Siglec 10, which was discovered by OncoC4 founders. Technology platforms includes humanized antibodies, bispecific antibody and antibody-drug conjugates. For more details, please visit www.oncoc4.com.

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