Telix has announced a collaboration with UniQuest, the commercialisation company of The University of Queensland (UQ), to develop a radiolabelled molecule targeting an immune checkpoint protein.
Under the agreement, Telix and UniQuest will work together to adapt and refine an undisclosed targeting peptide - developed in the laboratory of Professor David Craik in the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
"The goal is that an immune targeting peptide would be used as an imaging agent to determine the presence of certain immune checkpoint proteins in metastatic tumours, in order to guide patient selection for immunotherapy," said
Immune checkpoints are a normal part of the immune system, which modulate the body’s defensive responses to protect normal healthy cells from being destroyed when the immune system is activated.
They do this by engaging with partner molecules on the surface of immune cells – known as immune checkpoint proteins – signalling to leave healthy cells alone. Some tumours have co-opted this mechanism, which can help cancer to hide from an immune attack. Drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors disrupt this suppression of the immune system by blocking immune checkpoints from binding with their partner molecules. However, responses are highly variable.
Dr Michael Wheatcroft, chief scientist at Telix Pharmaceuticals said,“Immune checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated the power of immunotherapy, however in most cases it is still a minority of treated patients that respond. There is an urgent need for tools that can predict when a patient is likely to respond to this treatment. Currently, this is done by an invasive biopsy, with results that can be misleading since checkpoint protein expression can be extremely heterogenous both within a single tumour and between metastatic tumours.
“We are pleased to be working with Professor Craik and his lab, and to apply our expertise in radiopharmaceuticals to further advance this exciting new technology first developed at UQ. By using targeted radiation to assess the status and presence of this checkpoint protein throughout the body, we can potentially find a non-invasive method to paint a more useful picture of this immunotherapy target, and better select patients suitable for treatment.”
UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss added, “I am pleased to see this UQ innovation advance through a collaboration with an Australian-headquartered global biotech, with deep expertise in biologics as radiopharmaceuticals. UniQuest has a strong track record of commercialisation and we look forward to working with Telix to continue the development of this peptide, with the aim to support clinical translation in a field of high scientific interest and relevance to patients.”