The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) announced today that Novartis will have access to commercially develop their therapeutic, biomaterial-based, cancer vaccine technology that promotes anti-cancer immunity. Under a licensing agreement spearheaded by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), Novartis will have worldwide rights, in target-limited applications, to develop and translate this approach to treat patients.
Unlike cell-based cancer immunotherapies that rely on manipulating immune cells outside of the body and transferring them into patients, the implantable immuno-material approach activates endogenous immune cells inside the body to launch an attack on the patient’s own cancer. The novel technique was developed, incubated, and advanced at the Wyss Institute and SEAS by David Mooney, Wyss Core Faculty member, lead of the Immuno-Materials initiative at the Wyss Institute, and Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.
The first-generation therapy consists of a porous scaffold material made from a widely used biodegradable medical polymer infused with inactivated antigens from the patient’s tumor cells, as well as immunostimulatory molecules that attract dendritic cells of the immune system to the immuno-material site and activate them to stimulate a host response. After activation, the dendritic cells home to nearby lymph nodes to orchestrate anti-tumor responses throughout the body. Made of the polymer that’s used in biodegradable sutures, this aspirin-sized device is designed to deliver immunotherapy agents that activate the immune system against tumors.
“This work resulted from a remarkable cross-disciplinary effort using the combined expertise of bioengineers, cancer biologists and immunologists,” said Mooney. “We have demonstrated that these biomaterials can be easily delivered to patients, provide sustained and local release of immune-modulating factors, and bypass the need for modification of cells outside the body. This concept has led to a very promising platform for cancer immunotherapy.”
Novartis has also established a collaboration agreement with the Wyss Institute to further develop biomaterial systems for its portfolio of second-generation immuno-oncology therapies.