CELL AND GENE THERAPY
Genscript Biotech Corporation | September 23, 2022
GenScript USA Inc., the world's leading life-science research tools and services provider, is collaborating with researchers at the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology to advance the development of new, non-viral cell therapies that modify genomic sequences in the pursuit of more effective cell therapy products while limiting the cellular toxicity that is typically associated with previously available methods.
A new study, published in Nature Biotechnology, details methods for achieving highly efficient non-viral knock-in using GenScript's GenExact™ single-strand DNA modified with Cas9-target sequences. This method achieved up to ˜40% knock-in efficiency in primary immune cell types.
One powerful application of CRISPR/Cas genome editing technology involves the precise insertion of DNA sequences via the HDR pathway. Traditionally, researchers have relied on viral vectors to deliver DNA insertion templates used for gene therapy into cells. However, difficulties manufacturing large amounts of clinical-grade viral vectors have delayed getting cell therapies to patients. Additionally, viral vectors can insert genes at any location within the genome, leading to safety concerns.
Previous research by the group at Gladstone and UCSF has shown that synthetic DNA templates can be delivered without the use of viral vectors, but high levels of double-stranded DNA can be toxic to cells, resulting in low efficiency. Efficiency can be improved using a modified version of the DNA templates that can bind to the Cas9 enzyme. However, additional work was required to improve the yield of successfully engineered cells and to make the process compatible with the manufacturing of future cell therapies. Those goals motivated the team's current study.
In this study, the team tested modified GenExact ssDNA designed with Cas9-targeted sequences to determine if the gene-editing efficiency could be improved with lower toxicity. First, synthetic sgRNA was complexed with Cas9 protein to form a RNP complex. Then the RNP and ssDNA template were delivered into the cell via electroporation, enabling efficient gene editing.
The team discovered that this combination of GenExact ssDNA with Cas9-targeted sequence offers up to 40% knock-in editing efficiency with minimal cellular toxicity. This approach can accelerate the development and manufacture of novel, high-yield non-viral gene therapies — and at lower cost.
"We are very proud to have collaborated on this groundbreaking scale-up work by the talented team at Gladstone and UCSF. GenScript is excited for the opportunities that this high-yield cell-line engineering process will provide to our customers," said Ray Chen, Ph.D, president of GenScript Life Science Group.
"We were very happy to partner with Genscript on critical experiments demonstrating high efficiency and yield of CAR knock-in cells at clinical scale. The long ssDNA produced by Genscript exceeded our expectations and helped us clearly demonstrate the potential for future therapeutic applications using these methods.",
Brian Shy, MD, PhD, a former clinical fellow in the lab of Alex Marson, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology
About GenScript Biotech Corporation
GenScript Biotech Corporation is a global biotechnology group. Based on its leading gene synthesis technology, GenScript has developed four major platforms including the global cell therapy platform, the biologics contract development and manufacturing organization platform, the contract research organization platform, and the industrial synthesis product platform.
GenScript was founded in New Jersey, USA in 2002 and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2015. GenScript's business operation spans over 100 countries and regions worldwide, with legal entities located in the USA, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Ireland. GenScript has provided premium, convenient, and reliable products and services for over 100,000 customers.
CELL AND GENE THERAPY
Intravacc | September 12, 2022
Intravacc, a world leader in translational research and development of preventive and therapeutic vaccines, today announced additional favorable preclinical and toxicology data for Avacc 10®, the company's SARS-CoV-2 intranasal candidate vaccine. These results demonstrate a reduction in upper respiratory tract viral load, broad cross protection against circulating variants of concern. and a good safety profile, allowing progression towards a phase I clinical study.
"Based on our additional pre-clinical data, Avacc 10® has the potential to reduce the spreading of the virus as well as providing broad protection against circulation variants. Combined with the favorable toxicological safety data, this puts us a good position for our Phase I clinical trial, which will commence in Q4 2022."
Dr. Jan Groen, Intravacc's Chairman & CEO
The first set of pre-clinical studies of Avacc 10®, published in Frontiers of Immunology in December 2021, demonstrated high levels of spike-binding immunoglobulin G (IgG) and A (IgA) antibodies in serum, and the nose and lungs after two intranasal vaccinations 3 weeks apart. Avacc 10® vaccinated hamsters challenged with SARS-CoV-2 were protected from weight loss and viral replication in the lungs and histopathology showed no lesions in lungs 7 days after challenge.
The objectives of the additional pre-clinical and toxicology study of Avacc 10® were to study the dosing, cross neutralization and safety of the intranasal vaccine. For the dosing study, mice were vaccinated intranasally with two doses of various concentrations of OMV and Spike protein. Three weeks after the last vaccination neutralizing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain and variants of concern Delta, Gamma and Omicron were determined in the sera. High virus neutralizing antibody titers were detected against all the variant viruses. Syrian hamsters were used to study viral replication after challenge with SARS-CoV-2. A reduced viral load in throat and lungs and highly reduced lung lesions were observed in Avacc 10® vaccinated animals exposed to placebo vaccinated, challenged animals. Furthermore, delayed transmission of Avacc 10® vaccinated, challenged animals to placebo vaccinated animals was observed.
The purpose of the repeated dose toxicity study was to assess the safety and tolerability of Avacc 10® when administered through the intranasal route in New Zealand White Rabbits. Animals were vaccinated 3 times with Avacc 10® , and control animals with OMV only, or saline buffer. Toxicity was monitored until 2 weeks after the final vaccination. No clinical signs of toxicity nor morbidity/mortality were found in any of the groups, and no gross pathological changes were observed, demonstrating the safety of OMV based vaccine. All Avacc 10® vaccinated animals showed high IgG antibodies levels against Spike as well as virus neutralizing antibodies.
Based on the outcome of the Phase I trial, Intravacc will seek manufacturing and commercialization license partners.
About Intravacc's OMV platform technology
For the development of vaccines, Intravacc has designed and developed a platform based on outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) - spherical particles with intrinsic adjuvant properties. The OMVs can be rigged with immunogenic peptides and/or proteins that stimulate effective adaptive immunity. The OMV carrier has been optimized to induce a more effective immune response against these newly introduced antigens. Intravacc has also developed genetic tools to increase the yield of OMVs, reduce the toxicity and achieve the desired antigenic composition. Intravacc's OMV platform is fully scalable and allows rapid and efficient modification of the antigen composition, either through genetic modification of the bacterial host or by associating antigens with stored OMVs.
Intravacc, located at Utrecht Science Park Bilthoven in the Netherlands, is a leading global contract development and manufacturing organization for infectious diseases and therapeutic vaccines. As an established independent CDMO with many years of experience in the development and optimization of vaccines and vaccine technologies, Intravacc has transferred its technology world-wide for many vaccines including polio-, measles-, DPT-, Hib- and influenza. Around 40% of childhood disease vaccines are based on Intravacc's know-how and proprietary technology. Intravacc offers a wide range of expertise for independent vaccine development, from concept to Phase I/II clinical studies for partners around the world, including universities, public health organizations biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
FogPharma | November 22, 2022
FogPharma®, a biopharmaceutical company pioneering a new class of precision medicines that could ultimately prove applicable to the vast majority of therapeutic targets, including those previously considered “undruggable,” today announced a $178 Million Series D financing. The financing round includes new investors ARCH Venture Partners, Milky Way Investments and Fidelity Management & Research Company and existing investors VenBio Partners, Deerfield Management, GV, Cormorant Asset Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Invus, Farallon Capital Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Casdin Capital, and PagsGroup, also participated.
Proceeds from the Series D financing will be used to advance and accelerate FogPharma’s growing pipeline of hyperstabilized α-helical polypeptide therapeutics, a proprietary new class of drugs designed to overcome the limitations of today’s precision medicines with broad applicability to the vast majority of disease targets and therapeutic areas. FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor with potential applicability to significant cancer patient populations, is expected to enter clinical development in mid-2023. In addition, FogPharma is advancing other first-in-class programs against important, biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches including TEAD, NRAS, Pan-KRAS, ERG and Cyclin E1.
“FogPharma continues to make rapid progress on our moonshot mission to achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to medicine. We believe that Helicon polypeptides, a compelling new therapeutic modality, represent the future of precision medicine. We are thrilled by the support of our investors and will continue to build our platform capabilities, product pipeline which aims to address a significant percentage of cancer patient populations, and our phenomenal team across all levels as we aim to create one of the most impactful new classes of drugs in history.”
Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of FogPharma
In connection with the Series D Financing, Rick Klausner, M.D., has been appointed to FogPharma’s board of directors. In addition, Dr. Verdine has been appointed as chairman of the board.
“The team at FogPharma is building an unprecedented new therapeutic modality and robust pipeline with the potential to make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients,” said Dr. Klausner. “I am excited to join the board of directors and be part of something special – particularly at this important time as FogPharma continues to impressively scale its science, team, operations and infrastructure, with the goal of advancing its first Helicon polypeptide therapeutic into the clinic.”
Dr. Klausner is currently the founder and chief scientist of Altos Labs and founder and chairman of Lyell Immunopharma. Dr. Klausner was founder and director of Juno Therapeutics and founder and director of GRAIL. He is also the chairman of Sonoma Biotherapeutics and co-founder and chairman of Lifemine Therapeutics. Previously, Dr. Klausner served as senior vice president, chief medical officer and chief opportunity officer of Illumina Corporation and as executive director for global health for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Klausner was appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush as the eleventh director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) between 1995 and 2001. Dr. Klausner served as chief of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as well as a past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He has served in senior advisory roles to the U.S., Norwegian, Qatari and Indian governments.
Universal Druggability Platform and Helicon™ Polypeptide Therapeutics Existing drug classes are limited in both reach and applicability, with more than 80% of known human protein disease targets considered “undruggable” because they are beyond the reach of both antibodies and small molecules.
FogPharma’s Helicon peptide drug discovery engine integrates directed evolution, proprietary α-helix conformational hyperstabilization chemistry, highly multiplexed drug optimization technology, artificial intelligence including deep learning and machine learning, structure-based drug discovery, cancer genomics and biology, and multiscale manufacturing to rapidly discover Helicon polypeptide therapeutics. This novel therapeutic modality combines the targeting strength and specificity of antibodies with the broad tissue distribution, intracellular target engagement and oral dosing optionality of small molecules to address the limitations of today’s precision medicines and reach the most difficult targets – achieving universal druggability.
FogPharma’s lead Helicon polypeptide development candidate, FOG-001, a first-and-only-in-class direct TCF-blocking β-catenin inhibitor. Dysregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway has been shown to occur in at least 20% of all human cancers. In the U.S. alone, FOG-001 has the potential to become a new treatment option for >1 million patients suffering from a broad range of intractable cancers.
In biochemical and cellular studies, FOG-001 has been shown to potently, precisely and selectively disrupt the interaction of β-catenin with its obligate downstream transcription factor, TCF. Preclinical studies have demonstrated the ability of FOG-001 to cause tumor growth inhibition and regression by disrupting β-catenin-dependent signaling.
FOG-001 is the inaugural member of FogPharma’s TCF-Catenix family of direct-acting β-catenin antagonists and combines key features that distinguish it from previously reported Wnt/β-catenin pathway modulators: FOG-001 acts inside the cell, where it directly binds the key oncogenic driver β-catenin; and FOG-001 blocks TCF-β-catenin engagement at the most downstream node in the canonical Wnt pathway, thus abrogating the signal transmission mechanism by which most, if not all, known Wnt pathway mutations are believed to drive oncogenesis.
FogPharma is a biopharmaceutical company pioneering the discovery and development of Helicon™ polypeptides. Through this novel therapeutic modality, FogPharma aims to address the limitations of existing drug classes and achieve universal druggability – a world where no targets are off-limits to new medicines. Spun out of Harvard University by pioneering academic scientist and successful biotech company builder Dr. Gregory Verdine, FogPharma is advancing a broad pipeline of Helicon polypeptide therapeutics against important and biologically validated cancer targets that have remained elusive to other approaches, with the goal of providing new targeted treatment options for significant cancer patient populations. FogPharma is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and has raised more than $360 million to date from leading life sciences investors.