In Immunotherapy, Finally time for T Cells?
This article was originally published in Start Up
Immunotherapy has seen its share of failures in recent months, but T-cell oriented therapies are by no means dead in the water and therapeutic cancer vaccines continue to attract funding. This month START-UP profiles three companies that nevertheless have been able to attract funding . They aim to avoid the difficulties that have sunk other efforts to commercialize immunotherapies. The firms are transplanting T cells along with same-donor bone marrow to fight infection, delivering powerful cytokines and other therapeutic payloads via T-cell receptor targeting, and genetically enhancing the ability of T-cell receptors to recognize antigens before growing those T cells in culture and re-infusing them into a patient's body.
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GSK's first immunotherapy is still 4-5 years away, but it is already commissioning a companion diagnostic for it. By striking a deal with Abbott for a commercial screening test this early, the pharma may be laying the groundwork to address any regulatory concerns around using the test to enrich its clinical trials populations, which could allow for lower numbers of patients to be enrolled in order to prove efficacy.
Adaptimmune has recently spun out of MediGene AG to carry forward T cell receptor engineering with HIV as its initial target. The company's ex vivo approach sees a patients' own T cells harvested, those cells' receptors genetically enhanced for increased potency against certain infections or tumors in the manner of monoclonal antibody selection, and re-infused into the patient.
Altor BioSciences aims to exploit the intrinsic selectivity of T-cell receptors (TCRs) by pairing soluble receptors with therapeutic payloads. These TCR/drug combos are smaller than antibodies and could theoretically bind to targets within cells, not just on the cell surface, a main selling point of the firm's so-called STAR technology. At first Altor plans to enhance the safety and efficacy of existing marketed drugs by pairing them with monoclonal antibody-like TCRs for improved targeting.