Mukherjee debuts 2nd cell therapy biotech with an eye on solid tumors

Nearly five years after founding CAR-T biotech Vor Biopharma, renowned writer and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., is taking a crack at solid tumors. His new company, Myeloid Therapeutics, launches with more than $50 million to bring its myeloid cell-based treatments into the clinic.

CAR-T and other cell therapies have seen success in some blood cancers, particularly those that affect B cells, but have run into hurdles elsewhere. Vor is working to improve CAR-T treatments for blood cancers by pairing them with engineered stem cells that produce healthy blood cells that are protected from cancer-targeting treatments. Myeloid Therapeutics is taking a different tack it hopes will work in both blood and solid cancers.

It seeks to harness a group of immune cells called myeloid cells in two ways: to kill cancer or to trigger a patient’s T cells into attacking cancer cells. It hopes to move its lead programs in glioblastoma and T-cell lymphoma later this year. The company is also pursuing an earlier-stage program in solid tumors.

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"Myeloid cells are the body's front-line-disease-fighting tools, and they are critical in the orchestration of adaptive immune responses,” said Thomas Cahill, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder of Myeloid and managing partner of Newpath Partners, in a statement Wednesday. Newpath led Myeloid’s financing round, and 8VC, Hatteras Venture Partners and Alexandria Venture Investments also pitched in.

"Most other cell therapies focus on reprogramming the adaptive immune system and they have truly improved patient outcomes, especially with respect to liquid tumors. To expand on this promise, the next logical step was to empower the cells at the front lines of solid tumors,” Cahill said.

The company is using its ATAK cell platform to develop two types of myeloid cell therapies: ATAK CAR monocytes, which hunt down and kill cancer cells, and ATAK primed monocytes, which prompt T cells to kill cancer cells.

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“We built Myeloid's ATAK platform to overcome many limitations of existing cell therapies, in part by embracing the natural tendencies of monocytes to penetrate solid tumors and catalyze immune reactions,” said CEO and co-founder Daniel Getts, Ph.D., in the statement. “By harnessing the power of monocytes, which are the cells that comprise the largest population of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, we are working to bring new therapies to patients.”

Besides taking on solid tumors, Myeloid aims to tackle another limit of cell therapy: manufacturing. The approved CAR-T treatments are made using a patient’s own T cells, so manufacturing can be expensive and time-consuming. So far, Myeloid’s candidates take a day to make, so it hopes to offer patients same-day treatment. Down the line, off-the-shelf treatments could be an option, too.