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University of California, Irvine researchers awarded $2.4 million 'Fast Track' grant to develop a novel cancer immunotherapy treatment

Posted: 2023-10-10

Source: UCI School of Medicine
News Type: 

Michael Demetriou, MD, PhD, FRCP(C), professor of neurology, microbiology and molecular genetics at UCI School of Medicine, has been awarded a $2.4 million ‘Fast-Track’ grant to develop a novel cancer immunotherapy treatment. 

UCI School of Medicine

The University of California, Irvine, has been awarded a $2.4 million ‘Fast Track’ Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to further develop a highly novel cancer immunotherapy treatment. The project, a joint grant with GlyTR Therapeutics Inc, will build upon work at UCI originally funded by the President Biden Cancer Moonshot Program.

“Glycan-dependent T cell recruiter (GlyTR) technology represents a paradigm shift in harnessing the body’s own immune system to kill cancer via targeting abnormal sugar antigens expressed by all major cancer types,” said Michael Demetriou, MD, PhD, chief, Division of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology and professor, Departments of Neurology, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at the UCI School of Medicine.

The award for their proposal, Extended half-life GlyTR1 combined with checkpoint blockade for Cancer Immunotherapy, will fund an initial Phase 1 to improve half-life and a Phase 2 to assess combined activity with FDA-approved therapies that reverse immune cell exhaustion (i.e. checkpoint blockade).

Recurrent/metastatic solid cancers quickly become refractory to treatment, resulting in an abysmal prognosis. There is an urgent unmet need for novel options. Antigen-targeting cancer immunotherapies such as bi-specific antibodies and Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cells have proven to be highly effective in some blood cancers. However, applying this therapeutic strategy to solid cancers has been restricted by several factors, most notably a lack of cancer-specific target antigens. GlyTR technology addresses this issue by targeting abnormal complex carbohydrate antigens common to virtually all solid cancers.

“Current cancer immunotherapies are restricted to a few cancer types while the GlyTR1 protein uniquely kills a wide diversity of cancer cells with very high potency, including cancers of the brain, breast, ovary, prostate, colon, pancreas, skin and lung,” said Dr. Raymond Zhou, president of GlyTR Therapeutics.

Through the STTR grant, the NCI offers funding, mentoring and networking assistance to small businesses developing innovating cancer technologies.

UCI team members included in this research are: Michael Demetriou, MD, PhD, GlyTR Therapeutics team members are Raymond Zhou, PhD.