Parker-Tessa alliance tees up solid tumor I-O combinations

Sean Parker’s immuno-oncology institute has allied with Tessa Therapeutics to turn T-cell therapies against solid tumors. The agreement brings virus-specific T cell specialist Tessa into the network Parker and his collaborators created to foster cancer immunotherapy collaborations.

Singapore-based Tessa has built its R&D operation on IP licensed from Baylor College of Medicine and taken its lead drug as far as a phase 3 trial. That study is investigating the efficacy of Tessa’s adoptive T-cell therapy as a monotherapy in nasopharyngeal cancer patients who have undergone treatment with the chemotherapies gemcitabine and carboplatin. But Tessa sees the combination of its T-cell therapies and other immuno-oncology drugs furthering its pipeline prospects.

The multiyear collaboration with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy opens the door to such novel combinations.

“We are delighted to be their first cell therapy partner and look forward to leveraging on the Institute’s hub and spoke model for collaborative studies to design next-generation immunotherapeutic technologies,” Tessa CSO John Connolly, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Partnering with the Parker Institute connects Tessa to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University, UCLA, UCSF, the University of Pennsylvania, and MD Anderson Cancer Center. These six centers were brought together by a $250 million grant from the Parker Foundation, an organization set up by billionaire Napster founder and Facebook investor Sean Parker.

The Parker Institute will use the resources, data and technology at its disposal to support preclinical and clinical development of combinations of Tessa’s T cells and immuno-oncology agents.

Tessa has built out its own ability to put together combinations through deals and in-house research. The company gained checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4, TIM-3 and LAG-3 earlier this year by acquiring its compatriot Euchloe Bio. Tessa had already started human tests of its T cells in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo. The purchase of the suite of antibodies means Tessa can source checkpoint inhibitors for future tests internally.

RELATED: Tessa buys Euchloe for suite of checkpoint inhibitors

That acquisition also gave Tessa the means to pair its T cells with chimeric antigen receptors. Tessa sees this combination enhancing the antigen specificity and cytotoxicity of its T cells. One month after completing the Euchloe deal, Tessa teamed up with Vyriad to add oncolytic viruses to its armory.

If those combinations represent the future of Tessa, its present is dominated by the Epstein-Barr virus-specific autologous cytotoxic T lymphocytes it is testing in phase 3. The primary completion date for the trial is penciled in for the back end of next year.