ElevateBio founds HighPassBio to develop Fred Hutch cell therapy

Exterior ElevateBio BaseCamp site in Waltham, MA: A modern building of glass, wood and metal with a courtyard and blue sky in the background
ElevateBio BaseCamp site in Waltham, Massachusetts (ElevateBio)

ElevateBio has founded HighPassBio to advance T-cell immunotherapies based on research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. HighPassBio starts life with a phase 1 leukemia cell therapy and the support of a founder that recently raised $150 million to build a portfolio of startups.

The story of HighPassBio begins at Fred Hutch, where doctors including Marie Bleakley and Robson Dossa worked to develop T-cell receptor (TCR)-mediated immunotherapies against the HA-1 antigen. Bleakley and Dossa showed TCR-expressing T cells bind and eliminate leukemic cells that express the antigen in preclinical tests, suggesting a role for the therapy in patients who relapse after receiving a stem cell transplant.

Fred Hutch took a version of the therapy, modified to feature a safety switch, into humans around the start of last year with the support of nonprofits and the National Cancer Institute. Now, Fred Hutch has teamed up with ElevateBio to keep the program moving forward.

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Bleakley will stay involved in the project as scientific founder of HighPassBio, the biotech ElevateBio created to develop the program. The HighPassBio team will have access to the cell therapy process development and manufacturing capabilities ElevateBio has established to support its startups.

Those capabilities are central to ElevateBio’s model. Working with a $150 million series A round it raised in May, ElevateBio plans to hoover up cell and gene therapy programs from academic sites and medical centers and pair them with its process development and manufacturing company, ElevateBio BaseCamp. The model is designed to address the industrial capacity constraints that can slow the advance of cell and gene therapies discovered at academic medical centers.

In the case of HighPassBio, the resources will initially be used to support a therapy designed to help the 15% to 20% of leukemia patients who are HLA-matched or have a suitable mismatch and relapse after hematopoietic cell transplantation. The therapy could treat relapse by taking out myeloid and lymphoid leukemic cells. In the longer term, ElevateBio thinks there is potential to use the approach in other diseases treated by stem cell transplants. 

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