The platform, currently in the pre-clinical development stage, was invented at Penn by labs of Associate Professor Dr Daniel J. Powell Jr and Professor Dr Andrew Tsourkas.
Additionally, Prescient has also obtained a global, non-exclusive licence from Oxford University to use the SpyTag/SpyCatcher molecular binding system employed by the platform.
Prescient chief executive officer Steven Yatomi-Clarke said: “This is a transformative achievement for Prescient that allows the company to move quickly forward with the development of innovative new cell therapy products for oncology.
“There are significant medical and commercial benefits for companies that can develop improved cell therapy products.
“It is particularly exciting, for example, for us to progress this revolutionary technology for attacking solid tumours, as well as liquid cancers.
“We believe that OmniCAR technology is uniquely placed to help us advance development of better cell therapies for a wide range of cancers with unmet need.”
Shares have climbed from 2.3 cents at close on March 23 to an intra-day high of 7.4 cents today.
Engineered cell therapies
Prescient will incorporate the universal immune receptor technology licensed from Penn, along with Oxford University’s molecular binding system, to build a universal cell therapy platform for next-generation cell therapy product development.
Powell said: “The licence agreements with Penn and Oxford align perfectly with PTX’s objective of developing personalised cell therapy medicines and complements our targeted therapy pipeline.
“We are already working on leveraging our targeted therapy expertise in other cell therapy applications.”
Engineered cell therapies genetically modifying a patient’s own cells to recognise and kill cancer cells that are otherwise hidden from the patient’s immune system, but clinicians have no control over conventional cell therapy products after they are infused into a patient, creating significant safety concerns if toxicities are observed.
Many conventional cell therapies can only be directed to target a single cancer antigen, limiting their effectiveness when the cancer further mutates or where cancers express different antigens.
OmniCAR creates modular chimeric immune receptor cells that decouple antigen recognition from downstream signalling
How OmniCAR platform works
The OmniCAR platform creates modular chimeric immune receptor cells that decouple antigen recognition from downstream signalling.
Cells expressing a portion of the chimeric immune receptor and the targeting ligand (or binder) can be administered separately and then covalently bind after infusion to form a fully armed cell therapy product.
It employs the unique SpyTag/SpyCatcher covalent binding system – akin to molecular velcro – which has also been licensed by Prescient from Oxford University for use in the OmniCAR system.
Powell said: “We believe that this universal immune receptor platform technology has the potential to overcome many of the challenges currently faced in cell therapy product development.
“The technology is designed to target multiple antigens with the one cell therapy product, as well as giving clinicians more ability to control cell therapy product activity post-infusion.
“Accordingly, this could open up new applications for engineered cell therapies.”
Safety and adaptability
Many of the current cell therapy approaches face challenges including manufacturing, safety and adaptability, that can limit their broader use.
OmniCAR is designed to offer control and flexibility, developed to provide clinicians with control over cell therapy expression in vivo, allowing them to tune cell therapy activity either up or down post-infusion, and also enabling them to switch off cell therapy activity altogether by ceasing administration of binders (i.e. a built-in kill switch).
As the industry attempts to drive down the cost and time of delivering cell therapy products to patients, OmniCAR’s flexibility and control will be an increasingly valuable tool, by eliminating the need for multiple manufacturing runs per patient along with its potential compatibility with allogeneic (off the shelf) cell therapy products.
Tsourkas said: “Prescient now brings additional diversity and experience to the advancement of this program, and we look forward to the next stages of translational development of this exciting platform technology.”
Cells expressing a portion of the chimeric immune receptor and the targeting ligand can be administered separately, and then covalently bind after infusion to form a fully armed cell therapy product
There is no immediate material financial impact for the company on signing the agreement, however, the licensing payments will include an upfront fee, and industry-standard milestones mostly linked to achievement of key steps in the clinical development and regulatory approval of resultant products, and royalties on future commercial sales.
The initial pre-clinical development program for OmniCAR will be conducted within Prescient’s current budget.