Viral Biotechnology developed for StemCentrx R&D Pipeline
>> FIGHTING CANCER IS TOUGH
And everyday it gets tougher as low hanging solutions disappear behind competitive patents. For our scientists, old discovery methods weren’t working. 2016 was a year we committed to forging new technology to reach more promising grounds. This is the story of an innovation that came from a strange place – the common virus.
>> A BRIEF BACKGROUND ON HOW WE *CURE CANCER
* The term “curing cancer” isn’t quite right for a few reasons we use it for simplicity. This is our in-house framework for how we tried to find molecules that could kill cancer cells and leave normal cells alone.
>> OUR PROBLEM SPACE
At StemCentrx, we compare molecules called antigens as a way to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. By 2016, the antigens left to pursue were so complex that studying them (let alone targeting them) became almost impossible. Over 40% of our old methods consistently failed to present the antigens we were trying to target.
>> A VIRAL SOLUTION
At the cell & virus engineering department, we recognized the potential in the viruses we routinely produced to mimic complex antigens. Through some clever biological manipulation, we could leverage this expertise to force viruses to pull complex cancer antigens onto its surface and do our work for us.
>> THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS OF LADS
The new system we developed was called the Lentiviral Antigen Delivery System (or LADS for short). LADS leverages viral biology and forces the LAD particle to display cancer targets. This process has the potential to unlock countless difficult targets.
Our solution was novel. Viruses had not been examined like this before because, among other reasons, viruses too small to be examined using standard tools. I set on a path of hacking our available methods to verify the viral particles we made. I developed a new flow cytometer assay to mine empirical data from our prototype viruses. The result was evidence that our new system worked and exceeded any of our current in house antigen technologies.
COMPARING VIRAL PARTICLE SOLUTIONS TO OUR OTHER METHODS
September 2016, LADS proof of concept experimental data was presented at our annual science meeting
Successful proof-of-concept experiment presented at All-Hands Science Meeting 2015
Approved for additional funding to continue research
Established dedicated LADS team to improve technology
Increased production 10% and climbing
Approved for 4 trial production runs, 3 of which returned effective antibodies
>> THE FUTURE FOR LADS
SCIENCE IS NEVER SATISFIED WITH ONE (OR 18) SUCCESSFUL DATA POINTS. ADDITIONAL EXPERIMENTATION NEEDED TO BE SUBMITTED TO REINFORCE THE PITCH THAT LADS IS A VIABLE OPTION TO TARGET DIFFICULT CANCER CELLS.
Currently, an interdisciplinary team has been formed to perform diagnostic and characterization experiments on LADS. Together we have the means to validate LADS further as an antigen delivery system and hope to establish LADS as a powerful tool routinely used in cancer targeting.
Since the first few pilot experiments, LADS 2.0 has been an additional effort to clean up the particle. We are currently working to produce "naked" LADS that have as much irrelevant antigen removed as possible, this way the particle is 100% dedicated to mimicking cancer targets.