Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

PureTech Health launches new immuno-oncology programme

Published 12 April 2017

PureTech Health has launched a new immuno-oncology programme to develop monoclonal antibodies to target newly discovered immunosuppressive mechanisms in pancreatic cancer and other solid tumours.

The approach is based on the work of Dr. George Miller, Director of S. Arthur Localio Laboratories and Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at NYU School of Medicine.

Part of the body of data supporting this approach was published recently in Nature Medicine and builds upon his work previously published in Cell.

Dr. Joseph Bolen, Chief Scientific Officer of PureTech Health said: "Most solid, malignant tumours establish an immunosuppressive environment to ward off the body's natural defences. Dr. Miller's work in pancreatic ductal carcinoma has revealed that inflammatory processes drive the immunosuppression through certain gamma delta T cells and macrophages.

"Our novel approach builds on this finding and selectively disrupts the immunosuppression to potentially have a therapeutic effect on cancer."

This technology, exclusively licensed from the NYU School of Medicine, is being developed in a new subsidiary of PureTech Health called Nybo Therapeutics.

Nybo builds on PureTech's strength in immunology and joins PureTech's advanced pipeline of immunology and T cell biology programs that includes a Phase IIB immunosenescence program, microbiome-based T cell mediated therapies, and CAR-T therapies.

Dr. Diane Simeone, Director of the Pancreatic Cancer Center at NYU School of Medicine and a member of Nybo's Scientific Advisory Board said: "Pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with a five-year survival rate in the single digits, and there has been far too little progress towards meaningful treatments.

"Novel therapeutic approaches are important to pursue, and I look forward to helping advance this promising technology."

Dr. Miller commented on this announcement, "I am excited to translate our findings into first-in-class therapies for patients who desperately need new treatment options.

“Our work on immunosuppressive mechanisms in pancreatic cancer has shed light on new therapeutic approaches that form the foundation for Nybo, and we look forward to a great partnership with PureTech Health with whom to advance these findings."

PureTech Health has gathered a group of leading expert collaborators and advisors around this platform, including:

Erin Adams, Ph.D., is the Joseph Regenstein Professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and on the Committees of Immunology and Cancer Biology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Adams' research is focused on understanding how events at the molecular level allow the immune system to differentiate between self and non-self with particular attention given to nonconventional T cell recognition, such as that of gamma delta T cells.

The scientific approach she undertakes to tackle these questions spans multiple levels including genetics, protein biochemistry, structure, biophysics, function and cell biology and imaging. Dr. Adams is one of the pioneer researchers discovering how gamma delta T cells recognize antigens and how this recognition process regulates their activity in various tissues in which they reside.

Elizabeth Jaffee, M.D., currently serves as Deputy Director for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Associate Director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; Associate Director for Translational Research, Co-Director of Gastrointestinal cancer and diseases program, and Co-Director of the Skip Viragh Center for Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Research and Patient Care.

Dr. Jaffee is chair and member of the National Cancer Advisory Board, and served as co-chair of the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel for the National Moonshot Initiative.  Dr. Jaffee is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and has just been named President-Elect of AACR (2017-2018).  She will assume the presidency in April, 2018.

Steven Leach, M.D., is the Director of the David M. Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research of Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Prior to this, Dr. Leach served as Professor of Surgery, Oncology and Cell Biology, and the Paul K. Neumann Professor in Pancreatic Cancer at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dr. Leach received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees. He then pursued his MD degree at Emory University, followed by postdoctoral training at Yale University and at M.D. Anderson. Dr. Leach is also the current Chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.

George Miller, M.D., is the Director of S. Arthur Localio Laboratories, vice chair for research in NYU, Langone's Department of Surgery and the leader of Perlmutter Cancer Center's Immunology Program, as well as the director of the only training program in the country in gastrointestinal oncology that is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to his laboratory research, Dr. Miller is a highly experienced pancreatic and hepatobiliary surgeon with an extensive background in the evaluation and treatment of pancreatic tumors, as well as liver, bile duct cancers.

Diane M. Simeone, M.D., is currently the director of the Pancreatic Cancer Center at the NYU School of Medicine and the Associate Director of Translational Research, Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone Medical Center. She is the chair-elect of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, one of the country's leading organizations advancing the battle against the disease through research funding, community engagement and government advocacy.

She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on the National Cancer Institute's Pancreatic Cancer Task Force, and previously was president of the Society of University Surgeons and the American Pancreatic Association.

Dr. Aleksandra Filipovic, Therapeutic Lead for Oncology at PureTech said: "We will be exploring both pancreatic cancer and other solid tumour types such as colorectal cancer. In addition to monotherapy, Dr. Miller's work suggests that this approach may enhance the effect of checkpoint inhibitors that have historically not worked in pancreatic cancer opening up the possibility of combination therapy.

The underlying research described above has been supported by the NYU School of Medicine's drug discovery accelerator, the Office of Therapeutics Alliances.  

Source: Company Press Release