Flagship Pioneering combines Torque and Cogen Immune Medicine to rev up R&D

Flagship Pioneering office
(Flagship Pioneering)

Major venture capitalist firm Flagship Pioneering has brought together two of its sister biotech companies to create a new, singly focused effort.

Torque Therapeutics and Cogen Immune Medicine now become Repertoire Immune Medicines, a combined biotech looking to tap into the curative powers of our immune system to prevent, treat and cure cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.

Torque CEO John Cox, an ex-Biogen exec who also shepherded its spinoff Bioverativ through its $11.6 billion acquisition by Sanofi, becomes the new company’s chief.

Torque has been working on what it calls “deep-primed adoptive cell transfer” treatments it believes can surmount the hurdles that limit the use of cell therapy in cancer. These include getting past the microenvironment around a tumor that quashes the immune system and shuts down T-cell function.

The company “deep-primes” T cells to target multiple tumor antigens and puts cytokine and immunomodulators on their surfaces to call forth an immune response in the tumor microenvironment, the company says. Its first program, TRQ-1501, primes T cells to carry IL-15, a cytokine that promotes the proliferation of natural killer cells.

This will continue under the new biotech but will combine the work of Cogen, which also tapped the power of a patient’s immune system to fight disease. Now, it's working on technologies for its so-called DECODE discovery and DEPLOY product platforms that “allow in-depth characterization of the immune synapse and the ability to rationally design, and clinically develop, multi-clonal immune medicines.”

Repertoire has three discovery technologies that are at the heart of its immune synapse deciphering platform:

  • MCR, cell-based reporter assays to experimentally quantify MHC-specific peptide display and de-orphan TCR clonotypes across virtually unlimited peptide-MHC libraries;

  • ‍CIPHER, MHC multimer-based assays to detect and measure TCR clonotypes, peptide-MHC reactivity and phenotypes on a single-cell level;
  • CAPTAN, internally developed deep-learning computational tools to classify platform hits and leverage large data sets to predict TCR reactivity beyond what is currently possible.

It said in a statement it is currently working on clinical trials “using autologous T cells primed against cancer antigens and tethered to IL-15.” Specifically, Repertoire is testing its first dose escalation safety trial with TRQ15-01, using its PRIME platform to prepare the patient’s T cells and its TETHER platform to link an IL-15 nanogel immune modulator to the T cells.

“Repertoire is pioneering a new class of therapies based on high throughput, high content interrogation of the intrinsic ability of T cells to prevent, or cure diseases,” said Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., CEO of Flagship Pioneering and co-founder and chairman of Repertoire Immune Medicines.

He added: “Our products will be designed to leverage the highly evolved, potent and clinically-validated mechanism of the natural immune synapse to provide immune security to patients. With these ambitious goals in mind, we are pleased to have a proven leader, John Cox, as CEO to realize our shared vision to dramatically improve outcomes for those in need or at risk.”