SOTIO will build on Unum’s R&D data, its team and a portion of its laboratory and manufacturing facility to create an R&D Center of Excellence for T cell therapies in Cambridge, MA. SOTIO aims to develop multiple enhanced Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors based on the BOXR technology. The lead program, BOXR1030 for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma and other solid tumors, is expected to initiate first clinical studies in 2021.
In preclinical studies, BOXR1030 T cells expressing a GPC3 CAR and a Bolt-on gene were resistant to suppressive tumor microenvironment-like conditions, showing improved T cell proliferation under both hypoxic and low glucose conditions and superior efficacy in comparison to classical GPC3-targeted CAR-T cells. Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes isolated from the tumors of treated animals revealed that BOXR1030 cells were more resistant to dysfunction and had fewer markers of exhaustion as compared to the control CAR-T cells.
Under the terms of the agreement, SOTIO will make an upfront payment of $8.1 million for the BOXR technology and success dependent future milestone payments up to $3.4 million.
SOTIO will leverage its broad cell therapy expertise, including its in-house GMP cell therapy manufacturing site in Prague, to streamline process development and clinical grade cell therapy manufacturing by collaborating closely with the BOXR team in Cambridge.
In addition to acquiring the BOXR platform, several of Unum’s experienced research team members who were responsible for the research and development of the BOXR technology, including Geoff Hodge, former chief technology officer of Unum, will be joining SOTIO to continue advancing the BOXR R&D programs.
“The acquisition of the BOXR platform, which creates CAR-T cells designed to survive longer and perform better in the solid tumor microenvironment, furthers the evolution of our cell therapy activities and enhances SOTIO’s diverse approach to treating solid tumors. We are also excited about the possible synergy of a CAR-T approach with our clinical stage IL-15 superagonist program, SO-C101,” said Radek Špíšek, Ph.D., chief executive officer of SOTIO. “We welcome Geoff Hodge, Unum’s former chief technology officer, to lead the BOXR development team. Geoff has made major contributions to the research and development of T cell therapies while at Unum.”
Chuck Wilson, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Unum, added, “We are excited for SOTIO to take the lead in advancing and accelerating the clinical development of the BOXR platform, including BOXR1030, in multiple trials with the potential to benefit a range of patients living with cancer. SOTIO has assembled a seasoned and talented development team, including experienced Unum team members, and we look forward to SOTIO’s progress on the BOXR programs in the future.”
Geoff Hodge continued, "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead SOTIO’s Center of Excellence dedicated to the discovery and development of novel T cell therapies, especially given the advantages of building from the exciting preclinical data of the BOXR platform, a great core team, and SOTIO's extensive experience with the manufacture and logistics of autologous cell therapies for global clinical trials."