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Biotech, Synthetic Bio Companies Partner on T-Cell Therapies

T-cells and cancer cells

Killer T-cells surround a cancer cell (NICHD, Flickr)

7 Apr. 2022. A company creating antibodies from synthetic DNA and a developer of engineered T-cells are collaborating on new antibodies to produce T-cell therapeutics. Under the agreement, Twist Bioscience Corp. in San Francisco will receive an initial payment, and is eligible for further milestone payments from MediSix Therapeutics Pte. Ltd. in Singapore, but further financial details are not disclosed.

MediSix Therapeutics is a six year-old company producing engineered cell therapies initially for blood-related cancers, but more recently solid tumor malignant cancers as well. The company was founded by Dario Campana, director of immunopathology and cell therapy at the National University of Singapore medical school. MediSix genetically engineers T-cells from the immune system to express chimeric antigen receptors, proteins with cancer-fighting properties known as CAR T-cells.

The company’s CAR T-cells are altered further to remove other proteins on the cell surface that may impede their anti-cancer properties. MediSix uses a technique called protein expression blocker or PEBL to edit the location of specific expressed proteins, and trap them inside T-cells and off the cell surface. The company’s lead product code-named Pcart7 is in clinical trials for three types of leukemia. Three therapies for other cancer types using the PEBL technology are still in preclinical development.

Twist Biosciences develops synthetic genetic materials on a silicon platform, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, and from these synthetic genes, produce libraries of genetic variations. In addition, Twist Biosciences created a subsidiary, Twist Biopharma, that applies the technology to create collections of synthetic antibodies the company says match genomic sequences occurring in the body.

Discover five new antibodies

In the deal with MediSix, Twist Biopharma will apply its synthetic antibody collections called “library of libraries”. These collections, says Twist Bio, are made from phage display libraries, protein interactions derived from viruses that infect bacteria called bacteriophages, and a tool used increasingly to discover immunotherapies.

The agreement calls for Twist Bio to discover five new antibodies that address targets specified by MediSix, with MediSix then developing CAR T-cell therapies addressing malignancies and autoimmune diseases. While precise targets are not disclosed, MediSix has recently begun work on allogeneic or off-the-shelf T-cell therapies, removing capacity for dangerous graft-versus-host immune reactions, as well as autoimmune disorders. Twist Bio is receiving an initial payment from MediSix, and is eligible for clinical and regulatory milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales, but dollar amounts of those payments are not disclosed.

“We look forward to collaborating with MediSix,” says Twist Biosciences co-founder and CEO Emily Leproust in a statement, “to overcome existing challenges of using cell therapy approaches to treat T-cell malignancies, often because of a lack of antigen targets specific to the cancer. Pairing MediSix’s novel targets with our ability to discover and optimize antibodies to efficiently target these devastating cancers has the potential to add an important and needed therapeutic option for patients.”

In Sept. 2021, Science & Enterprise reported on Twist Bio’s collaboration with drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim to discover therapeutic antibodies for a range of diseases. That deal could earn Twist Bio as much as $710 million in milestone payments.

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