WE KNOW, THEY GUESS
We are in the midst of a T cell revolution in cancer treatment. In the past several years, new therapies like immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and adoptive cell therapies like chimeric antigen receptors (CAR-Ts) have offered new hope to millions of people suffering from cancer. ICI drugs “take the brakes” off T cells, a form of white blood cell that can kill tumors. By taking the brakes off, these drugs help overcome natural barriers erected by cancers to prevent our own immune system – and in particular, our T cells – from fighting cancer. CAR-T therapy, meanwhile, engineers a patient’s T cells to mount an attack on certain tumor cells. These new therapies herald future therapies designed to “educate” T cells to attack tumors with ever greater accuracy.
But which antigens, or T cell targets present on a tumor, should such new therapies aim for? There could be hundreds or thousands of antigen candidates per person, and the appropriate antigens for vaccine inclusion may vary per person. These are the challenges facing all of us seeking to fight our common enemy, cancer.
We have developed a technology platform, ATLAS, that we believe finds the right T cell antigens and addresses this complex challenge. By contrast, conventional in silico tools others use to predict what might be a neoantigen have not yet produced optimal results. ATLAS is the only platform to comprehensively identify the actual antigens to which a patient’s T cells – both CD4⁺ (helper T cells) and CD8⁺(killer T cells) respond.
As depicted in this image, in an in vitro assay, polypeptides representing each identified mutation from a patient’s tumor are delivered individually into their own antigen presenting cells (APCs), which then process and present the peptides on the cell’s surface where they can be recognized by T cells. If a T cell recognizes and binds to the peptide, a cytokine response will be triggered, which we measure to determine whether or not the candidate is a true antigen, and further, whether that antigen is “good,” or stimulatory, or “bad,” inhibitory.
Our ATLAS platform is protected by several families of issued patents and substantial know-how. The core invention underlying ATLAS was developed by our scientific founder, Dr. Darren Higgins from Harvard University, and has been further refined by Genocea scientists over the past decade.