Clever-1 is a multifunctional type-1 transmembrane protein that plays an important role in immunosuppression against tumors. Clever-1 is highly expressed in a subset of human tumor-associated macrophages and associated with poor survival. In mice, Clever-1 supports tumor growth and metastasis formation, and its deficiency or blockage induces T-cell-dependent killing of cancer cells. Therefore, targeting Clever-1 could lead to T-cell activation and restoration of immune response also in cancer patients. This is studied in an on-going clinical trial (MATINS (Macrophage Antibody To INhibit immune Suppression); NCT03733990) in patients with advanced solid tumors where bexmarilimab, a humanized IgG4 antibody against human Clever-1, shows promising safety and efficacy. Here, we report the humanization and nonclinical characterization of physicochemical properties, biological potency, and safety profile of bexmarilimab. Bexmarilimab showed high affinity to Clever-1 on KG-1 cells and bound to Clever-1 on the surface of classical and intermediate monocytes derived from healthy human blood. Bexmarilimab inhibited the internalization of its natural ligand acetylated low-density lipoprotein into KG-1 cells and increased TNF-α secretion from macrophages but did not impair phagocytic clearance. Bexmarilimab did not induce significant cytokine release in human whole blood cultures, contain non-safe immunogenic glycans or show any significant binding to human Fcγ receptors or complement pathway component C1q. In vivo, bexmarilimab showed dose-dependent duration of monocyte Clever-1 receptor occupancy in cynomolgus monkeys but did not induce a cytokine storm up to a dose of 100 mg/kg. In conclusion, these data support the clinical development of bexmarilimab for the restoration of immune response in cancers.

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