Prescient will join with the US’s largest cancer centre with the goal of creating best-in-class, adaptable CAR-T cell therapies to treat hematological malignancies.

Clinical stage oncology company Prescient Therapeutics (ASX:PTX) has signed a strategic collaboration with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson).

The collaboration is designed to combine Prescient’s OmniCAR modular ‘plug and play’ CAR platform with an undisclosed, proprietary binder discovered by MD Anderson’s ECLIPSE (coEvolution of Leukemia and Immunity Post Stem cEll transplant) platform.

ECLIPSE has established a broad sample library, enabling research to uncover unique binders that may allow for targeting blood cancer cells in a manner that is distinct to CAR-T therapies.

These binders are T cell receptor (TCR)-like antibodies which find cancer cells in a similar immune matching mechanism as is used during organ donor matching for transplantation.

Expanding cellular therapy

A key benefit to using TCR-like binders is their ability to target proteins that are usually on the inside of a tumour cell, as distinct from antigens present on the surface of tumour cells, therefore opening a new range of options for cellular therapy targets.

TCR-like binders are expected to be highly specific, with no expected cross-reactivity to healthy tissues, which is important for safety.

It is also especially important when targeting cancer cells that do not express appreciable levels of tumour-associated antigens on their surface.

Formidable team

PTX has always been a proponent of licensing from and collaborating with other world-leading cancer research institutions including Yale, Oxford, UPenn and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Joining with MD Anderson could see the two make a formidable team in the fight against hematological malignancies.

PTX said multi-arming OmniCAR-T cells with PTX binders against tumour-associated antigens (like its CD33 and CLL1 binders) as well as novel TCR-like binders that target cancer cells using immune matching mechanisms, has the potential to result in synergies including increased efficacy and a broader spectrum of cancer killing.

The biotech said it also consolidates OmniCAR at the forefront of cellular immunotherapy, with modular, controllable cell therapies that target both proteins on the surface, and now, inside cancer cells.

The collaboration will focus initially on a binder to an undisclosed target present on leukemic blasts and leukaemic stem cells, whose expression correlates strongly with poor outcomes.

Notably, this binder does not recognise healthy bone marrow, thereby potentially affording a unique combination of efficacy and safety.

OmniCAR cells and binders will be manufactured and tested by the ECLIPSE team headed by professor and chair ad interim of Hematopoietic Biology and Malignancy at MD Anderson Jeffrey Molldrem, M.D.

The costs will be shared equally by Prescient and MD Anderson with both sharing ownership of the resultant therapeutic product.

Ability to identify and treat targets

Prescient’s Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs, Dr Rebecca Lim, said a key challenge in developing effective cancer therapies is identifying targets on the surface of the tumour cells and then being able to bind to these targets.

“This is where the ECLIPSE platform has yielded some valuable breakthroughs in target identification and creating unique binders to these novel targets – targets that until now have been hidden inside the cancer cells,” she said.

“An additional challenge in treating most cancers is the heterogeneity of the antigen expression, and the fact that these change over time.”

She said this is where the power of the OmniCAR platform comes to the fore.

“OmniCAR enables novel TCR-like binders to be uniquely combined with Prescient’s binders, to result in a multi-valent and controllable cell therapy capable of addressing a much broader array of blood cancer cells to get the best chance of optimal patient outcomes.

“Furthermore, it enables multiple targets to be addressed over time if the patient happens to relapse.”

It’s been a milestone year for PTX, including recent news:

  • Entering a manufacturing services deal with specialist cell therapy manufacturer Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics (Q-Gen) to produce its OmniCAR cell lines for upcoming clinical trials.
  • PTX-100 being granted Orphan Drug Designation by the US FDA for peripheral T cell lymphoma.
  • A capital raise aiming to achieve $8 million in funds via a share purchase plan at 17.5 cents/ share to maintain momentum on its impressive cancer pipeline.

Prescient Managing Director and CEO Steven Yatomi-Clarke said Prescient believes that OmniCAR is a transformational platform for cellular immunotherapy and looks forward to testing the potential of this promising TCR-like binder for blood cancers with MD Anderson.

“Adding this TCR-like binder to Prescient’s armament changes the game by now being able to also target aberrant proteins inside the cancer cell that have been brought to the cell surface,” he said.

“The ‘plug and play’ nature of the OmniCAR platform enables this TCR-like binder to be used in conjunction with OmniCAR’s existing binders, depending on the antigen profile of the patient.

These are the first important steps in creating a cell therapy ecosystem with OmniCAR at its heart, being adapted to match the antigen profile of individual patients.”

Join a briefing

Join Prescient Therapeutics CEO Steven Yatomi-Clarke on Thursday 8th September at 7pm (AEST) where he will discuss the company’s deep pipeline and provide an update on activities. Click here to register.

This article was developed in collaboration with Prescient, 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.