Creating the next generation of immunotherapies with the University of Leicester

Jul 12, 2022

Isogenica visiting the team at the University of Leicester

Isogenica team visiting University of Leicester and giving a presentation

Immunotherapy has transformed the cancer treatment landscape in recent years, harnessing the power of the immune system to target cancer cells. However, checkpoint inhibitor drugs don’t work for all patients, so the hunt is on for more targeted and personalised therapies that directly engage immune cells with cancer cells.

We’ve teamed up with Professor Martin Dyer’s lab at the Ernest and Helen Scott Haematological Research Institute at the University of Leicester to develop novel immunotherapies for blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), potentially offering a new approach for patients with refractory cancers who have been through many rounds of treatment.

During the first year of the project, our team at Isogenica will be identifying and optimising VHH antibodies that recognise a tumour-associated antigen that is specifically expressed by a subset of B cells and upregulated in lymphoma. This will then be linked to an immune cell engager, creating a bi-specific antibody that directly brings cancer cells together with T cells to destroy them.

Next, these engineered molecules will then go forward for preclinical testing in the lab at Leicester, taking advantage of their impressive bank of lymphoma cell lines and patient samples to de-risk the drug development process and speed the journey to the clinic.

Lead researcher on the collaboration is PhD student Tash Spena, who is supported by an MRC iCASE award.

“I’m excited by the idea of being able to take this molecule from discovery all the way through to functional preclinical testing, which isn’t something you might get to do in a typical PhD project. It’s also a great opportunity to gain more skills than I might do in an academic lab, learning from all the molecular biology expertise at Isogenica that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.” Natasha Spena

Read about the Leicester team’s first visit to Isogenica.