Unlocking the potential of human Natural Killer cells.
NK:IO reimagines cancer treatment. By harnessing the potential of the innate immune system, we are developing ground breaking NK cell and small molecule therapies targeting both haematological and solid tumours.
Our technologies are built on pioneering research carried out by Hugh Brady and Matthew Fuchter at Imperial College, London. Based on their discoveries we have developed three interrelated, proprietary technology platforms.
Changing the Future of Cancer Immunotherapy
NK cell therapy holds immense promise as the next major opportunity in cancer immunotherapy. Researchers are exploring a variety of approaches to harness NK cells’ intrinsic ability to recognise and kill tumours and infected cells. However, it is clear that these approaches all suffer from a fundamental barrier: NK cells cannot be readily expanded to the numbers required for therapy and their cytotoxicity to abnormal cells is ineffective due to rapid exhaustion.
We have discovered fundamental mechanisms in NK cell development to address these issues, using NK cells derived and expanded from umbilical cord blood stem cells. With these discoveries, we are directing NK:IO’s platform technologies towards the development of highly novel therapeutic candidates. We are targeting both haematological and solid tumours such as ovarian cancer, where NK cell infiltration is usually associated with a good prognosis for the patient. These therapeutic programmes are currently at the research/early preclinical stage of development.
Exploiting our pioneering discoveries in small molecule and peptide ligand activation of blood stem cell progenitors, NK:IO’s platform technologies offer the potential for greatly enhanced NK cell expansion and tumour killing capacity in the field of NK cell-based therapy for cancer.
Using umbilical cord blood as a source of blood stem cells, we have produced first-generation wNK:IO human NK cells for cancer immunotherapy. The synergistic combination of a small molecule antagonist and recombinant protein ligand provides the basis for dramatically enhanced NK cell expansion for use as a cell therapy. The wNK:IO cells generated are highly functional and do not exhibit the ‘exhaustion’ phenotype that limits the efficacy of competitor NK cell technologies.
While our enhanced expansion methodology will allow us to improve and expand the use of NK cell therapies, it is likely, for certain hard to treat cancer subtypes, that cell engineering will be required to increase the therapeutic effect. Our next generation engineered eNK:IO human NK cells have been produced by deleting relevant inhibitory receptors on the cell surface prior to differentiation to mature NK cells. These engineered “super” NK cells exhibit enhanced cytotoxic and tumour cell-sensing properties.
We have leveraged the validated biological mechanism in our NK cell expansion technologies to develop a novel series of small molecules. The dNK:IO platform can be used to significantly mobilise and enhance NK cell production in vivo. This ability to produce large numbers of NK cells on demand represents a highly novel approach, with significant potential implications for the immune system’s ability to carry out anti-tumour responses as well as tackle long-term pathogen infection.
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Dr Nahide Koksal, Dr Heather Ang, Joanna Burr and Michelle Gestwa
Keith Thompson CBE
Dr Andrew Baxendale
Professor Hugh Brady
Professor Matthew J. Fuchter FRSC
Dr Mike Murphy
Dr Mike Romanos