Using single-cell technology to create human antibody-based therapeutics

San Francisco-based biotechnology company Infinimmune is emerging from stealth with its $12 million seed financing. The company is co-founded by former team leaders and multi-disciplinary tool builders from 10x Genomics. Taking a human-first approach, Infinimmune is leveraging single-cell technology to create truly human antibody-based therapeutics directly derived from the human immune system. DDW’s Megan Thomas caught up with Wyatt McDonnell, CEO and co-founder of Infinimmune. 

MT: Can you provide me with an overview of what Infinimmune does currently and the potential it sees in the antibody-based therapeutics market? 

WM: Infinimmune is an early-stage antibody biotechnology company, focused on reinventing antibody drug discovery by developing human-derived antibody drugs. We do this by studying B cells from human blood and tissue. Through this process, we hope to produce safer, more potent, and inherently cheaper antibody drugs that can treat various populations of patients.  

With respect to potential, we believe that the industry and clinical status quo has already proven the value of antibody-based drugs. However, the limited number of drugs and targets demonstrates the need for new approaches to both discovery and development. In the future, we see a large opportunity to discover effective antibody combinations against multiple targets in parallel, which is how effective human immune responses develop in vivo 

MT: How does what Infinimmune does differ from traditional methods of antibody drug discovery?  

WM: We discover antibodies that the human body has already chosen during an immune response. By contrast, nearly all antibody drugs reaching the clinic today were and are discovered in static systems including “fully human” transgenic animals or cellular display systems. These technologies in no way recapitulate the proteome that antibodies are tested against within a single human in nature. This has consequences for safety and efficacy. This is part of why patients in trials and the clinic can experience severe toxicity and adverse events, reject their therapy with an immune response, or completely fail to respond to treatment. Starting from antibodies found in humans is a better strategy. 

MT: What gap in the market or opportunity did the founders identify and act on in the founding of Infinimmune?  

WM: Our team and founders are creative tool builders who love tackling difficult biological problems from scratch by building hardware and software. We couldn’t walk away from the opportunity to apply our skills to impactful problems in drug development! We isolate antibodies from single human B cells using single cell genomics and assess, engineer, and advance these antibodies with other technologies. The human body conducts the equivalent of 100 billion clinical trials daily with its B cells and our technical approach enables us to harness this phenomenon to identify common and rare protective antibodies which we can characterise and export in therapeutic form from humans to the clinic.  

MT: How will the $12 million seed funding be used to expand Infinimmune?  

WM: Our default position is operating on a lean basis, and we’re hiring new full-time roles this year and in the near future to help us execute on our current goals and milestones. We’re using the funds to fill our pipeline and grow our lab and research operations. 

MT: What are the current obstacles that Infinimmune needs to overcome in order to succeed? 

WM: Infinimmune’s challenges fall into two categories: the most common challenges which all antibody drug companies face, and less common challenges that are non-standard, asset-specific or indication-specific.  

Good examples of the first type of challenge are developing a clonal cell line for clinical trials, finalising the formulation of the drug product, and meeting requirements for off-target specificity, product-related substances and impurities, and process-related substances and impurities.  

An example of the second type of challenge for us is thinking carefully about whether our human-derived drug candidates would behave as expected in preferred and validated animal and preclinical models—how close is the actual biology to the approved and accepted biology?  

Another example of the second type of challenge for us is building technology and a development process that helps us screen and select upfront for drugs that are extremely effective in easily defined patient populations, or conversely, drugs that are more effective than current therapies to reach broader populations. 

MT: What role do you think antibody-based therapeutic drug discovery will play in the future? Where will it have the most impact? 

WM: Like many others before us, we think antibodies are here to stay and recognise that drug development is a long and winding journey. We would love to live in a world where more patient-friendly drugs include: 

  • Prophylactic antibodies not just for infectious disease 
  • Antibodies that can prevent or regress cancer or autoimmune disease 
  • Antibodies that can prevent or treat diseases where intravenous immunoglobulin or human serum products are the standard care 
  • Synergistic antibodies that can be produced at lower effective doses 
  • Antibodies that are trivial to administer by intramuscular injection 

As a company, we see a huge clinical opportunity to help build drugs for populations of patients and not just those patients with access to care in developed countries. The substantial genetic diversity of the antibody repertoire is effectively untouched in drug development and as a community we will start to learn over time how the genetic origins of human antibody drugs can improve outcomes in populations around the world. 

Biography 

Dr. Wyatt McDonnell is Co-Founder and CEO at Infinimmune, a biotechnology company utilising natural immunity to transform natural antibodies into safer and more effective drugs for complex diseases. Previously, McDonnell developed 10x Genomics’ first therapeutic antibodies and core immunology IP behind three commercial products to interrogate the immune repertoire. He has co-authored 31 peer-reviewed papers, published 19 patents, and spoken at a number of revered industry conferences. 

Related Articles

Join FREE today and become a member
of Drug Discovery World

Membership includes:

  • Full access to the website including free and gated premium content in news, articles, business, regulatory, cancer research, intelligence and more.
  • Unlimited App access: current and archived digital issues of DDW magazine with search functionality, special in App only content and links to the latest industry news and information.
  • Weekly e-newsletter, a round-up of the most interesting and pertinent industry news and developments.
  • Whitepapers, eBooks and information from trusted third parties.
Join For Free