Immunotherapies show tremendous potential to unleash the immune system to attack cancers. However, while some patients benefit, others do not respond and, even when it is successful, immunotherapy treatments can carry with them severe, and sometimes fatal, toxicities. The most promising of these immunotherapies are based on T-cells, cells of the immune system, particularly CAR-T cells, which are showing significant efficacy in treating terminal cancers, but which can also often result in significant life-threatening toxicities.
Dr. Jonathan Bramson, of McMaster University, is working with Triumvira, a young Canadian biotech company, to further develop the company’s platform for engineering T cells, the T-Cell Antigen Coupler (TAC). The platform has already demonstrated equivalent or superior efficacy and much greater safety compared to other CAR-T cell platforms. Currently, however, the TAC platform is limited primarily by access to novel binding domains. Genome Canada funding will be used to validate TAC receptors carrying novel binding domains developed in the Bramson lab and at the Centre for Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics. Triumvira will then commercialize those domains that are successful by working with commercial pharmaceutical companies.
The primary economic benefit to Canada in the short term will be new jobs and the attraction of investment capital. Within three-to-five years of the project’s completion, human clinical trials will be underway, providing hope to patients with cancer who otherwise have no treatment options.