Tiny Biotech May Hold Key to Making Immunotherapy Drugs More Effective Against Cancer
Editorial Feature | Dec 5, 2022
One company has developed a new technology that “supercharges” the body’s NK cells (in blue) to keep attacking cancer tumors far longer than they normally could.
A Bay Area company is pioneering a breakthrough immunotherapy treatment for tumors.
In a Phase 1 clinical trial, the company’s innovative approach demonstrated reductions in cancer cells as high as 63%. And more recent tests with second-generation therapies have seen even better results.1
By “supercharging” the body’s natural immunity to attack cancerous cells, the company is incorporating advanced nanobody and Camelid antibody technologies for greater effectiveness.2
And they’ve created an entire series of new and improved immunotherapies for many types of cancer, including solid tumors, leukemia, B-cell malignancies and solid and hematological malignancies.3
Why Gilead Sciences was Willing to Pay $300 Million to License a Single Molecule
In May 2022, pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences paid $300 million, a 20% royalty and undisclosed milestone payments for a single molecule license from a small immuno-oncology company.4
A year earlier, Sanofi paid $1 billion to acquire an upstart immuno-oncology company and its portfolio of T-cell engagers using its XTEN technology.5
The point is: new immunotherapy treatments for cancer is where much of the M&A action may be headed… and both Big Pharma and shrewd investors are aware of this new trajectory.
That means, a small company that can produce a viable anti-cancer treatment for a reasonable price could potentially see rapid sales growth.
A Burgeoning Immuno-Oncology Industry
Cancer stocks are popular with investors for a reason. Cancer is a devastating and ongoing scourge that affects approximately 39.5% of the global population at some point in their lifetimes.6
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 18 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year7.
Yet despite this, the main therapies used to treat cancer are now more than 80 years old, with chemotherapy first becoming widely used in the 1940s,8 and radiation dating as far back as 18959.
However, in recent years, immuno-oncology companies have been looking to harness the body’s own natural defense system, unleashing so-called Natural Killer (NK) cells to destroy tumors without the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation.
Most biotech companies working in the field are trying to harness the power of the NK cells to fight cancer rather than the more common T-cells. The problem is, there aren’t as many NK cells in the body as T-cells – and once their primary target is destroyed, they’re exhausted and cease fighting.
As a result, many biotech companies developing immunotherapy treatments for cancer try to create new NK cells in a lab.
But this is a time-consuming, customized process that is hugely expensive – sometimes costing millions of dollars per individual– and often very hard on patients.
Radically New Approach To Cancer Treatment
That’s why this novel approach, developed by a handful of “NK engager” companies is so exciting, and could be the breakthrough doctors have been in search of for decades.
Instead of trying to create new NK cells in a lab, this method attempts to “supercharge” the cells already in the body so they can keep on fighting and destroying cancer.
It does this with a proprietary protein technology known as Trispecific Killer Engagers, trademarked TriKE®.
Originally developed by renowned immunologist Dr. Jeffrey Miller of the University of Minnesota Medical School, TriKE® works by enhancing NK cells, helping them to identify and eliminate any deadly tumor cells in the body.
Like Microscopic, Laser-Guided Cruise Missiles Targeting Tumors
Delivered to a patient intravenously10, the TriKE proteins are designed to trigger a “marker” on a patient’s tumor cells that then alerts the “natural killer” (NK) cells to attack the marked cells – and only the marked cells.
Unlike some conventional chemotherapy treatments, which often attack both healthy cells along with cancer cells, these agents are designed for precision.
They program NK cells to attack only tumor cells and to leave healthy cells intact.
In essence, this proprietary protein technology does four very important things:
- Activates or awakens the body’s own NK cells;
- Helps the NK cells precisely target tumor cells and only tumor cells;
- Helps the NK cells to continue attacking tumor cells, one after the other, for months instead of days; and
- Encourages the NK cells to proliferate or reproduce
Putting the Body’s Defenders on Steroids
This company’s “secret sauce” is the unique way it embeds a compound known as interleukin (IL-15) within its TriKE® protein at 17 times 11 the normal dose –and yet without side effects!
This potent blast of interleukin acts like a kind of cellular enhancer, greatly prolonging the cancer-destroying ability of the NK cells and helping them to proliferate.
Data from recent clinical trials are encouraging. Stage 4 cancer patients saw virtually no side effects yet experienced significant reductions in the amount of cancer cells in their bodies.
Plus, the cost is relatively low: As little as $30,000 per patient (covered by many insurance policies) instead of the $2 to $3 million per patient that other NK cell immunotherapies can charge.
A Small, Undiscovered Company with a Breakthrough Technology
Most important for investors, the market cap of other NK cell immunotherapy companies are in the billions – for example, Fate Therapeutics, which markets a therapy based on Dr. Miller’s earlier research, has a market cap of $8.48 billion.
In contrast, this company is a smaller company that has licensed and is developing Dr. Miller’s latest, most advanced immunotherapy – and so its market cap is only $300 million and growing fast.
That means early investors can acquire significant share positions at very low costs. But if clinical trials show further promise, then all bets are off.
Sign up now to learn more about this young company harnessing one of the newest advancements in the treatment of cancer.
1 See GT_Biopharma_Corporate_Presentation_NOV_2022_GTB_Website, Slide 25: “Cam16 IL15 camB7H3 TriKE ® Enables NK Cell Therapies More Effective.”
2 See GT_Biopharma_Corporate_Presentation_NOV_2022_GTB_Website, Slide 20.
3 Ibid., Slide 8.
4 GT_Biopharma_Corporate_Presentation_NOV_2022_GTB_Website, Slide 29.
11 Webinar video, Minute 12:00 ff.
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