Pathios, a biotech company focused on the development of first-in-class therapies for cancer, announced that it has been awarded £350K in the form of a Smart Grant from Innovate UK.
The UK government innovation agency’s money will accelerate Pathios’ cancer immunotherapy programme which targets the innate immune checkpoint, GPR65.
Pathios will collaborate on this project with researchers from the Department of Oncology at The University of Oxford to develop the key tools required to enable the rapid translation of small-molecule GPR65 inhibitors for treatment-resistant melanoma.
The advent of immunotherapy agents targeting T-cell checkpoints (PD-1/CTLA-4) has brought about improvements in the long-term survival of melanoma patients. However, only a subset of patients receives sustained benefit from these treatments and it remains an ongoing challenge to identify additional therapies for the non-responsive population.
Recent science suggests a reason that some melanoma patients do not respond well to anti-PD-1 therapies relates to the disarming of innate immune cells called tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) by the acidic microenvironment that is inherent to advanced tumours.
The importance of the GPR65 pathway in cancer is underscored by a small proportion of the population with inactivating polymorphisms showing stratified association with survival when analysed in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Pathios’ ‘Macrophage Conditioning’ approach aims to deploy small-molecule GPR65 inhibitors to reverse pH-dependent immunosuppressive signalling in the vast majority of patients who do not carry this genetic change.
With this grant, Pathios will develop a range of tools to expedite the translation of small molecule GPR65 inhibitors for use in cancer immunotherapy.
Stuart Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of Pathios said: “This award boosts our ongoing programme and is a significant endorsement of our novel approach to targeting the innate immune system in hard-to-treat cancers. We look forward to developing the tools that will drive forward our GPR65-based ‘Macrophage Conditioning’ technology and help deliver on the company’s goal to provide a first-in-class treatment approach for those melanoma patients who currently have limited treatment options”.
Image credit: Micheile Henderson