University of Leicester strikes partnership with biotech experts Isogenica to develop personalised cancer treatments

Patients could benefit from bespoke cancer-fighting treatments with fewer side effects thanks to a new partnership between a biotech company and a UK university.

The University of Leicester has joined forces with Cambridge-based Isogenica to develop new immunotherapies – a process where the patient’s immune system is helped to fight cancer – which will be tested on a ‘virtual patient’.

The virtual patient will be created in the laboratory, by taking samples of a patient’s own tumour cells and immune system, and will then be presented with a range of new immunotherapies developed by the partners. This personalised recreation of what happens in the patient’s body will allow the most effective treatment to be selected for that individual.

The project, which will be managed as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, funded by Innovate UK, will see the teams from Leicester and Isogenica develop novel antibodies to redirect patients’ immune systems so they destroy their malignancies directly, ultimately without the need to resort to treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

“Immunotherapy is probably the most exciting therapeutic advance of the last 10 years or so,” said project lead, Professor Martin Dyer, who is Director of the Ernest and Helen Scott Haematological Research Institute at the University of Leicester.

“Some of the results using immunotherapy are transformational and we are seeking to extend this approach with Isogenica.

“Our partnership will enable us to determine which patient would benefit from which specific treatment. This individualised approach will make sure the treatment we give has the best chance of working.”

Professor Dyer added: “This is a great collaboration which exploits the combined strengths of Isogenica, with its extensive track record of antibody development, and the University of Leicester team, with its expertise in assessing patients’ cells.”

Joining Professor Dyer in the Leicester team, is Dr Harriet Walter, Associate Professor in Medical Oncology at the University, and a medical advisor for the Centre for Drug Development at Cancer Research UK. Dr Walter said: “We are really excited to be working with Isogenica to drive this innovative partnership and ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

Isogenica’s Principal Scientist, Dr Lurdes Duarte, will act as the Business Partner Supervisor, bringing her wealth of knowledge and expertise in immunology and antibody discovery. Lurdes has a background in immunology and experience in developing new immune therapies.

Dr Duarte said: “Having the opportunity to develop new immunotherapies based on the knowledge of cancer patients’ needs in order to improve the current standard of care is at the heart of Isogenica’s vision.

Isogenica Team Member Lurdes“This partnership, with the outstanding knowledge and support from Dr Harriet Walter and Professor Martin Dyer, is a major step towards the development of such a treatment platform.”

Also joining the team from Isogenica is Ines Barbosa, a Senior Scientist and an expert in antibody discovery, who will be working closely with Dr Duarte on the project.