A differentiated research strategy
Our research strategy is divided into two differentiated programs:
- Enhance antigen presentation through mobilization of dendritic cells
- Unleash potential of innate ‘killer’ cells
Mobilization of dendritic cells
The first program focuses on the majority of tumors that have no or very low existing cancer immunity. Such tumors can hide from the immune system and are able to grow and develop without the immune system ever recognizing it. Dendritic cells are “experts” in taking up tumor antigens and presenting them to the T-cells and hence a key but under-researched cell type for mounting an anti-tumor immune response. We are developing antibody-based approaches for mobilizing and enhancing the activity of the dendritic cells. Currently, we are advancing projects against FLT3, AXL and CD40 with non-overlapping and differentiated mechanisms, which we believe have great potential for use in combination regimens.
Unleash potential of innate ‘killer’ cells
The second program focuses on tumors developing resistance to first generation immuno-oncology therapies by downregulating a group of cell surface proteins known as major histocompatibility complex class I or MHC I. These proteins are required for the T-cells to recognize tumor cells and kill them. In the absence of MHC I and T-cell killing, the second arm of the immune system, the innate immune system, becomes important. Cells of the innate immune system, such as macrophages, natural killer cells and neutrophils, do not have the same restriction for tumor cell killing as T-cells. We are developing antibody-based approaches for enhancing the activity of the innate killer cells and are pursuing two undisclosed first in class targets.
In addition to the two immuno-oncology programs, we have a research program that aims at targeting tumor metabolic dependencies. Tumor cells require nutrients to survive and grow and therefore develop dependencies on several key nutrients, the access to which can be exploited therapeutically. We have a discovery program against a promising undisclosed metabolic target that help sustain growth and survival of certain tumor types. With these three research programs, we maintain a strong early pipeline of proprietary antibodies targeting treatment of cancer.