Interview with William Hearl From Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc.
Q: What need is Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. addressing?
A: Immunomic Therapeutics’ nucleic acid vaccines have the potential to utilize the body’s natural biochemistry to develop a broad immune response, including antibody production, cytokine release and critical immunological memory. This approach could put our investigational UNITE, or UNiversal Intracellular Targeted Expression, Platform at the crossroads of immunotherapies in a number of illnesses, including cancer, allergy and infectious diseases. Immunomic’s lysosomal targeting technology is currently being employed in a Phase II clinical trial as a cancer immunotherapy.
Immunomic is also collaborating with academic centers and biotechnology companies to study the use of the UNITE platform in cancer types of high mortality, including cases where there are limited treatment options such as glioblastoma multiforme “GBM”. We believe that these early clinical studies may provide a proof of concept for UNITE in cancer and, if successful, set the stage for future studies, including combinations in these tumor types and others. Preclinical data is currently being developed to explore whether the UNITE platform may amplify and activate the immune response in highly immunogenic tumor types and be used to create immune responses to tumor types that otherwise do not provoke an immune response.
Q: What are the products and/or services Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc offers/develops to address this need? What makes Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc unique?
A: Immunomic Therapeutics’ UNITE™ platform is founded on a combination of complementary technologies and capabilities: Immunomic’s proprietary lysosomal targeting technology, the optimal use of adjuvants, advanced antigen selection and optimization, the use novel delivery methods and the ability to manufacture material at a large scale.
Immunomic’s core technology has been expanded to amplify the immune response via a unique combination of intracellular and molecular biology methods for enhanced MHC-II presentation combined with potent adjuvant and delivery technologies that result in a unified and complete immune system response.
Q: What is your role at Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc., and what excites you about your work?
A: I am the founder of Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc., and I focus on brokering mutually beneficial partnerships and identifying non-traditional collaborations and investment opportunities.
As one of the founders of Immunomic Therapeutics and its CEO, I have helped forge the Company’s vision and direction since its inception. I have certainly enjoyed building a world class team of biotechnology professionals including my longtime colleague and co-founder, Dr. Teri Heiland. She leads an outstanding scientific team that reduces our UNITE platform to practice. However, what really excites me is that we have an opportunity to treat diseases, in particular cancer, and bring solutions to people in critical need of new therapies.
Setting Immunomic apart from other biotechnology companies is my company’s unique and decidedly entrepreneurial investment and business models. Initially, Immunomic raised a modest amount in angel investment capital, totaling less than $20M, which allowed Immunomic to maintain control over the vision and strategy of the company.
The unique investment strategy has yielded much success. Immunomic was able to blaze new trails with a strategy that returned a portion of our licensing revenues back to our initial investors, further fueling the entrepreneurial biotechnology ecosystem. Thus, with that minimal investment of less than $20M, the company created over $317M in licensing revenue and created a greater than four-fold return to its investors. Immunomic’s success in validating the UNITE platform through significant, early partnerships is a testament to the company’s capital efficiency and ability to reach significant milestones in a lean, cash-efficient way, avoiding the need to raise significantly dilutive funds.
Q: When thinking about Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. and the domain Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. is working in, what are some of the recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward and how will they impact healthcare?
A: The biggest breakthrough in recent years has been the discovery and use of immunotherapeutics and in particular the development of the anti-PD1 family of drugs which act to reverse the checkpoint inhibition of immune cells by a tumor. This has dramatically changed the landscape of clinical cancer research and has opened tumors up to new lines of attack.
This is where the investigational UNITE platform may enable a broad and robust immune response by exploiting the pathways and associated effect of activated antigen presenting cells. Once the barrier to tumor entry is reduced by the PD-1 drugs, then educated lymphocytes can identify and access the cancer cells, targeting them for cell death. Our lysosomal targeting technology drives antigen presentation through the MHC II compartment, and as such directly educates the helper T-cells about the cancer antigen of choice. This results in a Th1 oriented response with immune memory while maintaining presentation to the MHC I pathway. Combined with exosomal release of antigen-coated vesicles that can access B cells, UNITE can result in a comprehensive immune response. The UNITE platform could support this activity by combining the nucleic acid vaccine with select adjuvants and the appropriate delivery method.
Q: What are the short-term challenges that Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. and its peers are facing?
A: Within medicine, few technologies have had more impact than vaccines. Each year they prevent more than 3 million childhood deaths worldwide from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles, to name a few. Vaccines, such as those for HPV and Hepatitis B, have extended those preventative benefits for young and mature adults. Now, a new generation of vaccines, ones that harness a body’s immune system to treat disease rather than prevent it, are moving through clinical trials and into the marketplace.
However, for all their existing benefits and future potential, vaccines are still bedeviled by problems of perception and adoption. Patients can be suspicious of vaccines or confused by them, or they can fall into complacency, believing that certain diseases are no longer a threat. Regardless, the overall efficacy of vaccines is largely dependent on coverage, so when coverage dwindles, outbreaks occur. Take for example the recent measles outbreak in Minnesota, which began in a community that was suspicious of vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy also has a subtler and more insidious implication. It dampens the appetite for new vaccines, stifling innovation and robbing patients of better solutions.
We must help people better understand the enormous impact that vaccines have on the health of the population and we must continue to improve our ability to keep terrible diseases in check through the use of this tool.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?
A: A coordinated effort is going to be essential to conquer cancer in the long term. Without key partnerships, both present and future, it will be challenging to achieve the goals we have set before us. Particularly in the context of the fight against cancer, we know that a single therapy most likely will not provide the ‘silver bullet.’ We firmly believe the UNITE platform will play a fundamental role in the immuno-oncology landscape and we are looking forward to working with others in our industry to ensure success for our Company and more importantly for the patients in need of a lasting solution.
Interview via Precision Medicine World Conference - full piece can be viewed at: https://www.pmwcintl.com/willi...