Pharma Focus Europe

Glycotope and Max Delbruck Center Form Research Collaboration to Investigate the Fusion of Glycotargets and Car Technology

Monday, September 25, 2023

Glycotope GmbH (Glycotope) and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association have forged a collaborative agreement to investigate the potential synergy between Glycotope's antibodies targeting protein/carbohydrate combined glyco-epitopes (known as GlycoTargets) and the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology developed by the Max Delbrück Center.

CARs represent engineered synthetic receptors designed to redirect lymphocytes, particularly T-cells, to recognize and eliminate cells expressing specific target antigens. These cell-based therapies have shown promising results in clinical trials and are increasingly emerging as formidable alternatives to traditional treatments, especially for hematologic cancers. However, their success has been limited in some cases, particularly with solid tumors, which pose unique challenges. One major hurdle in drug development is the selection of suitable antigens that are exclusively expressed on tumors, ensuring safe targeting. Under this newly established collaboration, Glycotope's highly tumor-specific antibodies will be combined with Max Delbrück Center's CAR technology to assess their suitability for treating solid tumors.

Dr. Armin Rehm, who leads the Translational Tumorimmunology Lab at the Max Delbrück Center, highlighted, "CAR-T cells have revolutionized the treatment of hematologic malignancies. In contrast, CAR-T cells have shown limited efficacy against solid tumors, which account for a larger share of cancer incidence and mortality, including breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers, that remain difficult to target with current T cell therapies. However, antibodies can recognize tumor-associated aberrant glycosylation, making it an attractive and tumor-specific target structure. This, combined with widespread tumor-specific expression, opens the door to developing glycan-redirected CAR-T and NK cells. Therefore, we are collaborating to usher in a new generation of CAR-T and NK cells." Dr. Höpken, Head of the Lab Environmental Regulation in Autoimmunity and Cancer at the Max Delbrück Center, echoed Dr. Rehm's sentiments.

Dr. Patrik Kehler, CSO at Glycotope, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, saying, "We are delighted to have a prestigious collaboration partner and eagerly anticipate collaborating with the experienced scientists from Uta's and Armin's groups to evaluate how our targeting approach can advance cellular therapies for solid tumors."

Glycotope's antibodies focus on specific tumor-associated carbohydrate structures or protein/carbohydrate combined glyco-epitopes (GlycoTargets). Targeting these precise antigens allows for a broad range of potential applications, long-term treatment possibilities, and reduced toxicity on healthy tissues—critical factors in developing potent therapies. Given this exceptional tumor-specificity, Glycotope's antibodies are well-suited for a multifaceted platform approach, offering diverse modes of action to accommodate a wide range of patients' needs.

The Max Delbrück Center's CAR program encompasses several proprietary antibody binders targeting hematologic tumors. This program includes comprehensive preclinical validation, an automated clinical-scale manufacturing platform, and the initiation of two phase I/II clinical trials in collaboration with clinical partners. A robust molecular toolbox comprising modular CAR components enables rapid integration of new antibody binders. Their extensive experience in CAR design, retroviral engineering for CAR transfer, regulatory guidance from authorities, and established methodologies for generating T cell and NK cell effector populations for in vitro and in vivo testing will facilitate the integration of innovative antibodies into their next-generation CAR platform, targeting tumor-associated glycan structures.

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