Special Report: Biotech company Prescient Therapeutics is advancing to next-stage trials for its personalised treatments for cancer and COVID-19 and has launched a capital raising for up to $6.5m via a Share Purchase Plan (SPP).

The cash raised will see Prescient Therapeutics’ (ASX:PTX) well-funded to progress its expanded pipeline of exciting cancer treatments, including clinical trials of PTX 100 and 200 products, and its cutting edge programs in cell therapy including the new OmniCAR platform for next-generation CAR-T therapies.

At the same time, the company has attracted leading cancer researcher Professor Phillip Darcy to its Scientific Advisory Board.

The SPP share issue is priced at 5.5c, a 15 per cent discount to its volume-weighted average share price prior to the SPP announcement, and it closes August 17.

“We have a diversified pipeline of targeted therapies of medicines that are in clinical stage trials. And, we have a number of cell therapy programs, including CAR-T,” chief executive and managing director Steven Yatomi-Clarke said.

“Not only is Prescient the only ASX company undertaking CAR-T programs, we are have an enabling platform from the pioneer of this technology to create next-gen CAR-T therapies.”

Prescient’s personalised cancer therapies focus on genetically modifying the proteins or antigens on the T-Cells of patients so they can better fight and defeat cancer.

“T-cells might normally be able to detect cancer cells by recognising certain proteins on their surface.  However, cancers evolve and can evade the immune system by changing these proteins.  Without these, the T-cells in our immune system can no longer recognise them.  And that’s when we come in to fix that, ” Yatomi-Clarke said.

CAR-T is a new generation cell therapy for treating cancer that turbo-charges the body’s immune system’s T-Cells to attack and destroy cancer cells.  It does so by training these T-cells to recognise the cancer cells.

A sample of a patient’s T-Cells are collected and grown in a laboratory where they are genetically modified, adding a cancer antigen or protein, to create a hybrid T-Cell called a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR).

“We can  reprogram these T-Cells to recognise cancer once again because we add our receptor of choice called a CAR-T cell,” Yatomi-Clarke said.

“It is a chimera between the patient’s own T-Cells plus a brand new, introduced receptor so the result is a hybrid; a turbo-charged version of the patient’s T-Cells.”

The CAR-T field received a boost at the world’s largest cancer conference, when pharma company Johnson & Johnson reported a 100 per cent response rate among patients in a trial for CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma.


Globally renowned expertise

Prescient has also just announced a well-timed appointment, naming internationally renowned cancer and CAR-T expert Professor Phillip Darcy as a new member of its Scientific Advisory Board.

Professor Darcy is currently National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) senior research fellow and group leader of cancer immunotherapy at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

“Prescient is pursuing a number of promising approaches in cell therapy, including cell therapy enhancements, that have the potential to significantly broaden and improve existing approaches to CAR-T therapy,” Professor Darcy said.

“Another exciting development involves the OmniCAR platform. This approach may pave the way for a new generation of CAR-T cells that are capable of being controllable, targeting multiple antigens, and potentially used as an off-the-shelf product. I am excited to be able to participate in this important work for cancer patients.”


Treating multiple cancers

As exciting and groundbreaking as CAR-T is, the current generation of therapies face challenges that limit its application, including safety, cost and flexibility to treat a range of cancers.

OmniCAR is Prescient’s new platform that seeks to address these challenges – creating the next generation of CAR-T therapies that are safer, controllable and flexible.

OmniCAR aims to improve the safety profile of CAR-T and enhance dosage control and T-Cell activity by making CAR-T more flexible and adaptable to treat multiple cancers including tumours.

The therapy is designed to overcome challenges of CAR-T such as time and cost — the treatment can cost $500,000 per patient — as well as safety concerns, and antigen loss that can lead to a patient’s relapse.

OmniCAR can overcome some of the clinical challenges of CAR-T treatments by allowing on-demand activation of CAR-T cells, increased control over side effects, and reduced cost of treatment.

The OmniCAR platform works by creating a modular CAR-T therapy.   The solution is elegant in its simplicity, and effective.

The T-cells and the portion that binds to the cancer (the “binder”) are administered separately, where they form a fully functional CAR-T inside the patient.  The modularity gives control and enables the CAR-T to be re0directed at-will by the clinician.

“Inside the patient they attach like Lego. That simple elegant capability is what enables you to overcome the challenges of conventional CAR-T,” Yatomi-Clarke said.

Dosage control is an important feature of OmniCAR, potentially allowing clinicians to have control of CAR-T activity post infusion.

“With OmniCAR, by administering the binder separately you can add increasing amounts and it switches on progressively. For the very first time after infusion the doctor has control which is important,” Yatomi-Clarke said.

“This feature alone would be a game-changer because it makes it more accessible and safer to give to patients.”


Quality pipeline of cancer treatments

Prescient Therapeutics has other cancer treatments in its PTX 100 and PTX 200 targeted cell therapies.

“They address particular switches that drive cancer. They are targeted therapies that go inside cancer cells and switch off aberrant proteins,” Yatomi-Clarke said.

PTX 100 is the only RhoA inhibitor in clinical development that targets RhoA mutations in cancer cells.

A “Basket trial” is underway for PTX 100 to examine the treatment’s effect on different types of solid and blood cancers after the treatment was deemed safe in a previous Phase 1 trial.

“Rarher than focus on the location of the cancer, we focus on the genetic driver of that cancer,” he said.

Results from the basket trials are expected in late 2020 and includes research on PTX 100’s impact on gastric, pancreatic, colorectal cancers and T-Cell lymphomas.

PTX 200 is a personalised treatment for breast cancer that selectively kills tumours, and the company is exploring new combinations of the treatment for breast and ovarian cancers.

A trial is underway to examine the application of PTX 200 in acute myeloid leukemia.


COVID-19 treatment trial

Prescient has also partnered with The Doherty Institute in Melbourne, which is researching the application of two of the company’s drugs as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

“We are in the business of cancer [treatment] and that remains our focus. It just so happens that some of the mechanisms that drive cancer also happen to be important for viral infection and replication and we are looking to exploit that,” Yatomi-Clarke said.

Both treatments have priority status and results from the Doherty trials are expected in September.

Prescient has filed patents to protect all intellectual property generated in the trials.

To find out more, please head over to Prescient Therapeutics’ investor centre.

This article was developed in collaboration with Prescient Therapeutics, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.