Collaboration aims to develop targeted, effective cancer immunotherapies

Immunai has joined forces with Baylor College of Medicine to bring more targeted and effective cancer therapies to market. Leveraging Immunai’s single-cell technology and artificial intelligence, Baylor and Immunai will analyse natural killer T (NKT) cells and genetically engineer them into immunotherapies that target a variety of cancers, including solid tumours.

While some immunotherapies like chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have been proven to work in treating certain types of cancer like leukaemia and lymphoma, there’s still a massive need for more effective cancer treatments across the board, especially for solid tumour cancers, which account for 80-90% of all cases.

Natural killer T (NKT) cells, on the other hand, are much rarer and have potent anti-cancer properties for tumours and can be developed as immunotherapy, as published by researchers at Immunai and Baylor in Nature Medicine.

For the first time, these researchers showed that NKT cells can be genetically engineered to express a CAR and IL15 and expanded to clinical scale to safely treat patients with advanced neuroblastoma. Now, Baylor is entering a formal collaboration agreement with Immunai to continue their work on NKT cells and explore their potential as immunotherapy for a multitude of other cancers.

“The results from our first study published in Nature Medicinewith Baylor showed that NKT cells can actually cause certain solid tumours to shrink in patients,” says Noam Solomon, CEO and co-founder of Immunai.

“Our platform enabled the researchers to understand with unprecedented granularity how ex vivo numeric expansion and genetic modification affect individual NKT cells. We’re excited to continue this groundbreaking work with our partners at Baylor, world leaders in NKT cells, to bring these novel immunotherapies for a variety of cancer indications to patients faster.”

Immunai provides a vertically-integrated, end-to-end solution that profiles immune cells with single-cell technologies, then analyses this data with machine learning algorithms to map hundreds of cell types and states. With a map of the immune system in states of health, disease, and treatment, Immunai helps power new therapeutic discoveries, accelerate drug development, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

“We will leverage our database and algorithms, and work together with the Baylor team to bring improvements to their drugs,” says Luis Voloch, CTO of Immunai. Immunai and Baylor will work together to leverage their respective strengths in developing the next generation of CAR-NKTs.

“Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, especially children with currently incurable forms of cancer, and we believe Immunai’s team and technology can accelerate our progress towards reaching that goal,” says Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, Professor of Paediatrics – oncology at Baylor and member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

NKT cells are an evolutionarily conserved sub-lineage of innate-like T cells that have natural anti-tumour properties, making them an attractive cellular platform for cancer immunotherapy. Researchers at Baylor’s Center for Cell and Gene Therapy (CAGT) have developed protocols that enable clinical-scale production of NKT and CAR-NKT cells. This has led to the initiation of two ongoing first-in-human clinical studies of CAR-NKT cells.

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