A new set of antibody-based immunotherapies that mimic T cell receptors (TCRms) to target cancers will be developed by PhosImmune Inc. and Pure MHC LLC, which have recently established a license and collaboration agreement for this joint research.
Cancer cells express high levels of phosphopeptide tumor antigens that are exclusive targets for cancer immunotherapy since they are not expressed or are expressed at low levels in normal cells, therefore, therapies aimed at these receptors do not damage healthy tissues. These PTAs are found on a variety of cancer types and originate from proteins involved in crucial cancer development pathways. This strategy has the potential to significantly reduce tumor development and metastasis.
PhosImmune, Inc. is a company focused on cancer immunotherapy located in Charlottesville, VA and Birmingham, UK, that commercializes libraries of phosphopeptide tumor antigens (PTAs) developed at the University of Virginia (UVa) and the University of Birmingham (UoB), UK.
Pure MHC LLC is a platform technology company that focuses on the identification of specific targets for cancer, infectious, and autoimmune diseases as well as discovery and development of immunotherapeutic drugs for these diseases.
The company produces antibodies that mimic T cell receptors, named TCRms, that specifically bind to peptide-HLA complexes, which act as a “danger signal“ at the surface of tumor and infected cells by presenting foreign peptides to T cells. TCRms can be used to develop antibody drug conjugates or bi-specific antibody products able to recruit immune cells that can target and kill tumors covered by TCRms.
“We are very pleased to have this strategic partnership with PureMHC, and look forward to working closely together to create a new generation of targeted immunotherapies,” said Dr. Kevin FitzGerald, CEO of PhosImmune, in a PRNewswire press release. “Pure MHC is one of the very few companies world-wide to successfully create antibodies to peptide-HLA complexes” added Dr. Kevin FitzGerald.
The license and collaboration agreement states that PhosImmune will supply the PTTs to PureMHC for the discovery and development of new TCRms and both companies will own and commercialize the resultant TCRms.
“The powerful combination of PhosImmune’s highly tumor-specific peptide antigens with PureMHC’s innovative antibodies provides an exciting opportunity to advance new immunotherapies for clinical testing,” said Dr. FitzGerald. “We look forward to a rewarding collaboration and to co-discovering novel therapeutic modalities for currently intractable diseases.” concluded Dr. FitzGerald.
“PureMHC’s chief scientists, Dr. William Hildebrand and Dr. Jon Weidanz, have spent over two decades in the discovery of novel HLA peptides as markers of cancer and infectious disease and the subsequent development of TCRms as therapeutics to target these markers,” said Thomas Harlan, CEO of PureMHC. “This combined experience and expertise, along with that of PhosImmune’s founding scientists, Dr. Donald Hunt and Dr. Vic Engelhard of the University of Virginia, and Dr. Mark Cobbold of the University of Birmingham UK, will give pharmaceutical companies access to promising new technologies in the immuno-oncology space. We are pleased to have the privilege to work with PhosImmune on this venture”, concluded Thomas Harlan.