NEW YORK – Refuge Biotechnologies and the MD Anderson Cancer Center on Monday announced a partnership to develop new cell therapies for solid tumors.
Within the collaboration, the biologics development platform within MD Anderson's therapeutic discovery division will incorporate Refuge's technologies for the development of personalized, engineered iterations of tumor infiltrating lymphocyte, or TIL, therapies. The collaboration gives the Houston-based comprehensive cancer center exclusive rights to Refuge's cell engineering platform, which the partners hope will enhance the naturally occurring anti-tumor activity of Refuge's TIL therapies.
"It is my belief that TILs are poised for a significant impact in the field of cancer therapy, and engineering improved TILs is a vital part of advancing this modality," Jason Bock, who heads MD Anderson's biologics development platform, said in a statement. With TIL therapies on the cusp of potential commercialization, the ability to engineer these naturally occurring immune cells could be important for drugmakers' efforts to differentiate their TILs from others seeking regulatory approval.
Additionally, MD Anderson and Refuge will jointly develop the HER2-targeted autologous CAR T-cell therapy, RB-340, for solid tumors. The treatment involves using CRISPR technology to alter gene expression such that RB-340 downregulates PD-1 expression on tumor cells, which in turn could minimize T-cell exhaustion and increase T-cell persistence and proliferation.
According to Refuge and MD Anderson, the therapy has demonstrated advantages versus conventional CAR T-cell therapy in preclinical models. The partners hope to file an investigational new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration in early 2022, which will enable them to study the therapy into Phase I/II clinical trials.