Strand Therapeutics, a privately held biotech company developing next-generation, programmable mRNA therapeutics beyond vaccines, announced last week that the company was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an off-the-shelf chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) immunotherapy based on the company’s mRNA technology for the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The total funding amount awarded to Strand is approximately $400,000.
Strand’s mRNA programming technology promises to make mRNA therapies safer and more effective by programming the location, timing, and intensity of therapeutic protein expression inside a patient’s body using mRNA-encoded logic circuits.
As one of the most common cancers in the U.S., NHL accounts for approximately 4% of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that in 2021 over 80,000 people will be diagnosed with NHL. While CAR-T therapies have shown clinical benefit in patients, many individuals still suffer treatment-induced toxicities including cytokine release syndrome, neurologic complications and adverse effects from lymphodepletion. Furthermore, development of CAR therapies is costly, with manufacturing processes being difficult and time-consuming.
To address these challenges, Strand will use the funds from the contract to develop an in situ, off-the-shelf cell therapy based on the company’s proprietary self-replication, programmable mRNA platform to illicit a targeted CD19 CAR-T response. This novel approach has the capability of providing long-term, temporal and cell-type specific expression, potentially minimizing off-target effects and enabling redosing without lymphodepletion.
“Strand’s in situ CAR delivery approach and its capacity to provide long-term, programmable expression is the first such method that could offer life-saving therapeutics to all patients at a fraction of the cost of currently-available treatments,” said Jake Becraft, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Strand. “This opportunity enables us to position ourselves in the field of mRNA-based CAR therapies and sets the stage to further develop our technology in areas of unmet medical need.”
The company was recently awarded two Phase I NIH SBIR grants to advance its programmable, long-lasting mRNA therapeutics for melanoma and breast cancer, directed at enhancing the efficacy of anti-PD-1 immunotherapies.