Most gene remedies, for example, use infections to enter a person’s cells and alter their DNA. But those infections elicit immune system responses that can have unpredictable outcomes and often, in some full cases, eliminate potential benefits associated with the treatment. Select Biosciences is attempting to get over those nagging problems with a nanoparticle-based system, called ImmTOR, that has been shown to control human immune responses in preliminary scientific data.
The company is pairing its ImmTOR technology with natural drugs that can cause unwanted immune system responses, to increase the drugs’ performance and basic safety. Robert Langer, Selecta co-founder, and the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT. The company’s lead drug candidate, in a stage 2 trial with the U presently.S. Food and Drug Administration is targeted at treating a painful inflammatory condition called persistent gout. Beyond that trial, Selecta is focused on allowing the repeated dosing of gene remedies, which it has already achieved in mice and complete in a recent Nature Communications paper.
Selecta’s team of analysts has made important improvement in advancing the nanoparticle technology because the start of the company in 2008. The foundations of the ongoing company, however, were largely laid at MIT. The science behind Selecta’s ImmTOR technology has its roots in a 1994 paper published by Langer yet others in the journal Science.
The paper specified a method for using biodegradable nanoparticles as a car to regulate the blood circulation of drugs in the body. Omid Farokhzad MBA ’15 emerged to Langer’s lab in 2001 as a postdoc and improved the technology’s ability to target specific types of cells. Farokhzad also showed the technology’s potential in a living organism for the very first time. Farokhzad became a member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 2004, where he is currently a teacher and the director of the Center for Nanomedicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but he and Langer have continued to collaborate even today.
In 2006, the two researchers published an extremely cited paper showing how to use synthesized nanoparticles to provide drugs to cancer cells. The three founders started by dealing with MIT’s Technology Licensing Office to secure a significant portion of Select a founding intellectual property. Meanwhile, Langer leveraged his legendary network (nearly 1,000 scientists worldwide have been trained in his laboratory on campus) to help get the company off the bottom. To secure seed funding, he considered two former-students-turned-investors, Polaris Venture Partners handling partner Amir Nashat Ph.D. 03 and Noubar Afeyan Ph.D. 87, the founder of investment finance Flagship Pioneering. The founders’ first hire was Lloyd Johnston SM ’92 Ph.D. 96, who acquired worked for another company founded by Langer previously.
At first, the company worked on developing vaccines by using the nanoparticles to trigger the immune system in response to specific antigens. Nonetheless it later pivoted to use its technology to stimulate the immune system tolerance. Farokhzad says tolerance is a much riskier, less explored path, however the rewards can be higher if drugs earn FDA approval.
When paired with gene therapies, Selecta’s ImmTOR nanoparticle system includes rapamycin, an immunomodulator that’s presently approved to prevent organ rejection after kidney transplants. The rapamycin stops the formation of antibodies that normally strike the virus, allowing the Trojan to effectively enter cells and edit genes. The approach is a huge upgrade compared to some other immunomodulators, which suppress the forming of all immune cells in the body simply. Farokhzad likens Selecta’s technology to “engineering, or teaching,” the immune system to tolerate specific drugs. The added sophistication brings a genuine quantity of advantages.
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For example, the immune reactions brought about by many gene therapies can harm patients or wipe out the potency of a second dosage. In Selecta’s recent Nature Communications paper, the company used ImmTOR to re-administer these gene treatments in animals successfully. Redosing holds particular promise for children who may benefit from continued gene therapy treatment later in life. Overall, Selecta is convinced unwanted immune reactions are the biggest reason that drug candidates fail. Company officials are expecting their technology can significantly increase the applications of treatments like gene therapy and lead to better patient outcomes for each medication that’s hampered by immune responses.
Anywhere else, the company’s ambitious goals would stand out. But in the higher Boston area, Selecta is just one of an ever-growing variety of biotech companies with a history that may be traced back again to MIT and a radical intend to transform the near future. Langer doesn’t think the flourishing biotech sector around MIT is a coincidence.