Modifying a patients T cells to have more potent, longer lasting anti-tumor responses
The inhibition of popular “immune checkpoints” has proven to be an effective way to potentiate T cell responses as a treatment for multiple solid tumor indications. Blocking these immune checkpoints in vivo has shown significant effectiveness in open label placebo controlled clinical trials, resulting in the FDA approval of Bristol-Myers Sqibb’s Nivolumab and Merck’s Pembrolizumab, both antibodies that target Programmed Cell Death 1 (PD – 1). A major drawback of these therapeutics is the high cost, often upwards of $120,000 for a single course of treatment. Batu Biologics seeks to leverage the established clinical benefit of targeting this pathway by genetically altering the patients T cells themselves, thereby reducing the cost of each treatment while seeking rapid FDA development as a minimally manipulated autologous cell therapy.
The Immittam program is designed around the concept of expanding a patients T cells ex-vivo to clinically relevant numbers and using the CRISPR/cas9 gene editing platform to silence immune checkpoints in these cells before they are transfused back into the patient. By permanently modifying the patients T cells to no longer express these immune checkpoints, the patients immune response will have a greater ability to overcome the local defenses and immune suppression of the tumor microenvironment, leading to more powerful and effective anti-tumor responses. Batu Biologics has identified 20 sequences targeting 4 major immune checkpoints using the CRISPR/cas9 gene editing platform and is currently conducting proof of concept experiments in vitro to screen for the best possible drug candidate.