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March 24, 2020
Darrell Irvine launched Torque Therapeutics to help bring his laboratory’s T-cell nanoparticle "backpacks" to market. Now in clinical trials, the backpacks deliver immune-stimulating drugs that help the T cells, which are programmed using multiple known tumor-associated antigens to target and attack tumors, to survive and function in the immune-suppressing tumor microenvironment. This approach stimulates powerful immune responses against the tumor, while avoiding some of the toxic side effects that come with systemic administration of immune-activating drugs. Now, Torque has merged with Cogen Therapeutics to make these immunotherapies even more powerful and targeted.
Cogen, which has also relied on Koch Institute expertise, including from Michael Birnbaum and Alex Shalek, as well as Doug Lauffenburger, has been developing a platform technology that can identify all of an individual’s T-cell receptors (TCRs) and corresponding antigens. Better understandings of TCRs could help find the best antigens to elicit an immune response, particularly in cancer.
Together, Torque and Cogen have now formed Repertoire Immune Medicines. Armed with complementary analysis and targeting technologies—and counting Peter Ghoroghchian, former Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson KI Clinical Investigator as head of therapeutic development—the new company will decode disease relevant antigen-TCR pairs and deploy them, via backpack-laden engineered T-cells, for cancer immunotherapy. Both Irvine and Birnbaum received early support for relevant work from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program.