The UK cell conversion startup Mogrify and the US genomic medicine company Sangamo have reached an exclusive license agreement that could allow Sangamo to scale up the production of off-the-shelf Treg cell therapies for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mogrify will receive an undisclosed upfront payment from Sangamo and will also be eligible to receive additional undisclosed payments related to developmental and regulatory milestones, as well as product sales.
In return, Mogrify will aim to convert two different types of stem cells – induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells – into immune cells called regulatory T-cells, or Tregs. Tregs are able to selectively restrain the immune system, which makes them attractive targets in treatments for conditions involving an overactive immune system such as transplant rejection.
Sangamo will then use its proprietary gene-editing methods to create a specific type of CAR T-cell immunotherapy based on the Tregs. This type of immunotherapy is called CAR-Tregs. Sangamo then expects to take its CAR-Tregs therapies to clinical development for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Mogrify’s technology uses a specially developed algorithm to predict what chemicals are needed to convert any human cell type into another human cell type. These chemicals can include small molecules or proteins such as transcription factors.
“After sequencing both cells, the Mogrify technology will be used to determine the transcription factors needed to convert the induced pluripotent stem cells into Tregs at speed and efficiently,” Karin Schmitt, CBO at Mogrify, told me.
At present, many CAR-Treg therapies in development depend on taking T-cells out of the patient and then genetically engineering them to protect particular cells from immune attacks. This makes it difficult to cheaply scale up the production of these therapies. To overcome this challenge, Mogrify’s technology combined with gene editing could make it possible to transform donor stem cells into Tregs.
Schmitt explained: “CAR-Tregs therapies derived from [traditional methods] are already reaching clinical development. However, the conversion from induced pluripotent stem cells to Tregs will enable the scale-up of Tregs production.”
Schmitt added that the collaboration “should significantly reduce the cost of the cell therapies as well as enable a scale-up, which combined, will mean reaching many more patients in the future.”
One of the big hitters in the nascent Treg cell therapy field was the French company TxCell. The company and its CAR-Treg therapies to treat autoimmune diseases and organ transplant rejections were eventually acquired by Sangamo in 2018.
Another example of a recent startup gaining traction in Treg-based cell therapies is the UK company Quell Therapeutics. The company was founded with a €40M Series A round last year to develop Treg cell therapies against autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
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