Replay, MD Anderson Team Up to Launch Oncology-Focused Product Company (Updated)

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Genome engineering company Replay and The University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center have joined forces to launch Syena, an oncology product company.  

Syena will incorporate Replay and MD Anderson's technologies to advance T cell receptor (TCR) and natural killer (NK) cell therapies, creating a new pipeline of cancer treatments using the TCR-NK platform. 

MD Anderson’s latest endeavor will expand cell therapy discoveries by Katy Rezvani, a professor of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at the university.  

“The NK cells appear to be much more suited to killing tumor cells than TCR cells. TCR cells make up for it by having T cell receptors, but if you put a TCR cell receptor into an NK cell, you’ve got the best of both worlds,” Adrian Woolfson, executive chairman, president and co-founder of Replay, told BioSpace.  

Before the launch, MD Anderson made significant advancements in the field. At MD Anderson, Rezvani studied how NK cells trigger immunological activity against malignancies and how to strengthen this response. These discoveries inspired this partnership and Syena’s mission to construct a pipeline of TCR-NK cell therapies.  

Syena has attained licenses to implement Replay’s cell and genome engineering technology. By blending TCR and NK cancer therapies with natural and artificial systems, Syena aims to create cancer treatments with improved safety and efficacy.  

The partnership’s first priority is to target NY-ESO-1, a cancer cell protein marker. Syena intends to begin human trials for these therapies during the second quarter of this year.  

TCR treatments identify proteins typically located inside the cell. Syena researchers hope NK cells can pinpoint external protein fragments originating from cell surface immune proteins by combining these treatments. 

This approach differs from existing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapies that recognize proteins exclusive to the cell’s surface.  

“The drug has been extensively de-risked by Katy in lymphoid tumors. Interestingly, she didn’t see any high grades toxicity that you usually see with CAR-Ts and TCR-Ts, so that’s another reason that we think we can win here,” Woolfson said.  

The partners plan to combat a variety of tumor antigens, which can create therapies for both hematological malignancies and solid tumors. Current engineered cell therapies have not treated solid tumors effectively.  

Syena expects to treat the first patient in Houston at MD Anderson in June, and if the data is promising, Rezvani hopes the therapy could target other antigens.  

“The platform is very modular and allows for that flexibility,” Rezvani told BioSpace. “Once we confirm safety and efficacy, the plan would be to expand this to other patients with other types of diseases that express NY-ESO. Many types of cancers do, like lung cancer, esophageal cancer, ovarian cancer.”  

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