Novartis is joining scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to develop biomaterial systems for its portfolio of cancer immunotherapies, the company announced.
Building on previous studies by Wyss and Dana-Farber, the collaboration and license agreement will combine Harvard’s knowledge of tumor biology and materials science with Novartis’ immuno-oncology pipeline.
These licensed biomaterial systems are designed to overcome the barriers of traditional cancer vaccines, including their limited duration of action and their inability to target specific cancer cells.
“Our collaborators have combined the fields of immuno-oncology and material science to develop novel platforms for delivering immunotherapies to combat cancer,” Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), said in a press release. “We look forward to collaborating with the Wyss Institute to further develop this technology in conjunction with our growing immunotherapy portfolio.”
A “cryogel” developed by Wyss and Dana-Farber researchers has been shown to benefit subsets of cancer patients. This new collaboration will explore its potential for delivering Novartis’ second-generation cancer immunotherapies, which are being developed in clinical trials.
A team of researchers from Wyss and Dana-Farber previously found evidence of anti-cancer immunity in preclinical experiments of their biomaterial systems. To conduct their investigations, researchers engineered these systems to be able to provide sustained delivery of immunotherapies and target specific types of cancer.
The implantable and injectable systems are made of a type of cryogel that, in lab experiments, has shown to release cell-recruiting factors capable of attracting host dendritic cells and present tumor antigens to those specialized immune cells. This effect was shown to bolster immune responses to cancer.
While these systems have not yet been studied in humans, they have the potential to serve as engineered microenvironments to educate the immune system about cancer and trigger immune responses against tumor activity over a sustained period of time.