Harris & Harris Group is proud to be on the cutting edge of science and business as we build transformative companies enabled by disruptive science. We have produced a series of blogs illustrating how our companies are on the cutting edge of innovation and market trends. This post on Enumeral is our eighth blog in this series. The previous seven can be accessed here: D-Wave, Metabolon, Champions Oncology, Adesto Technologies, Nanosys, HzO and PWA.
New therapies for medical ailments touch everyone’s lives in different ways. They can extend the life of a loved-one who is battling cancer. They can dramatically improve the quality of life for those dealing with chronic problems such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders. They can be identified and targeted at specific patients who are more likely to respond positively based on new understandings of disease.
While the potential impact of these therapies is clear, human biology is complex and many drug candidates with high potential to cure disease can also cause unwanted side effects, some of which can be fatal. These side effects are often unnoticed until a drug is in clinical trials or on the market because testing is performed in animals rather than in humans. As we all know, the biology of animals is very different from humans. We spend significant time looking for new technologies and approaches that can make a significant impact to increase the speed of discovering and developing new drugs and in improving the safety of new drug therapies. One result of this effort was our helping to found and investing in Enumeral Biomedical.
Enumeral is focused on using its differentiated platform that enables the isolation and study of single cells to discover and develop novel antibody therapeutics that help the immune system attack diseased cells for the treatment of cancer and for infectious and inflammatory diseases. Enumeral’s differentiated approach has been validated through early partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies. The company is executing on a business model focused on building a pipeline of product candidates and leveraging the breadth of its technology in order to drive near-term cash flows from out-licensing of its drug candidates and through strategic collaboration partnerships
The power of the human immune system to protect against disease is unprecedented once it knows to act. Antibodies are proteins that alert the immune system that a type of cell, bacteria or virus does not belong and that it should be eliminated thus protecting and/or curing the patient from the disease.
The problem is that sometimes the human immune system is compromised or unable to react quickly enough to act against the disease and needs a “kick” to get started. This is where antibody-based therapies have immense potential. Antibody-based therapies are the fastest growing market in the pharmaceutical industry. According to Reportbuyer.com, sales of antibody drugs were more than $75 billion in 2012 and are projected to exceed $140 billion in 2017. The top six antibody therapeutics accounted for almost 60 percent of the $75 billion of sales in 2012. That said, if the “kick” causes an unwanted immune response, the results can be devastating.
In 2006, a company called TeGenero AG started a clinical trial for an antibody-based drug for the treatment of leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis. While the drug had very good safety profiles in animal studies, it caused catastrophic organ failure in the first human subjects dosed with the drug at a concentration 500 times lower than the dose found safe in animals. Lesson learned. Animals are not humans.
Enumeral was founded based on the research and insights of Professor J. Christopher Love of the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT. Prof. Love was originally trained as a chemist, completed his Ph.D. in the lab of Prof. George Whitesides at Harvard University where he focused on surface chemistry and micro/nanofabrication. He then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in an immunology lab at the Whitehead Institute under Prof. Hidde Ploegh.
During his time at the Whitehead Institute, Prof. Love saw biologists going through great pains to study the human immune system on a single cell level. Human immune cells are inherently fragile and can exist in small numbers within the samples available from patients. These scientists would often take steps to improve the stability of the cells and/or increase the number of cells available for study, but each of these steps changes the makeup of the cells and reduces diversity; that is, some cells that are important to how the immune system behaves may not survive the steps and therefore are not available for analysis. Clearly it would be powerful if researchers could easily study the human immune system without having to take any of these steps.
This insight led Prof. Love to develop a simple and versatile platform for the isolation and study of single cells based on his knowledge of surface chemistry and micro/nanofabrication. A clear example of BIOLOGY+.