Cyteph secures vital funding for brain cancer immunotherapy clinical trial

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Cyteph, a spin-out biotechnology company from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant via the CUREator incubator.

The grant will support the company's phase 1 clinical trial for its lead candidate CYT-101 in recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Under the guidance of QIMR Berghofer’s Professor Rajiv Khanna, the company said its goal is to develop allogeneic or ‘off-the-shelf’ T-cell therapies and a dual-targeting CAR-T platform to advance the treatment of solid tumours.

CYT-101 is an allogeneic cytomegalovirus (CMV)-specific T-cell therapy developed by Professor Khanna’s team. The novel immunotherapy uses the immune system and the power of virus-specific T-cells to recognise and attack cancer cells.

CMV-specific T-cells are particularly effective at targeting and destroying virus-infected and malignant cells because they are primed in the body as killer T cells that rapidly migrate and penetrate deep into diseased tissues.

The program has been de-risked through two previous clinical trials using autologous CMV-specific T-cell therapy in GBM patients, where it was found to be safe with preliminary efficacy signals.

Autologous treatments use the patient’s immune cells, which are harvested, manipulated, and injected back into the patient. This process is costly, can take many weeks, and the immune cells can be dysfunctional.

Allogeneic treatments, often termed ‘off-the-shelf’, use donor cells from healthy volunteers. Pivoting to allogeneic treatment offers many potential benefits over autologous, including a more robust and consistent product with a longer duration and treatment without delay, which is crucial for treating fast-growing tumours such as GBM.

"Securing this grant is an important commercial milestone for Cyteph and a vital step in progressing the development of its lead technology, which has been nurtured at QIMR Berghofer for 15 years. For our medical research team, one of the most rewarding parts of the job is guiding work from the lab, closer to the patient, and I am optimistic about how CYT-101 may improve the lives of people suffering from GBM,” said Professor Khanna.

Cyteph CEO Dr Melissa Knight added, "We are thrilled to receive the CUREator funding and are right now welcoming further engagement with the investor community to progress our broader pipeline into the clinic. We are resolutely focused on our near-term goal to test and prove the merits of this Australian technology and to address pressing, unmet needs in the treatment of cancer.”