Torque touts modular approach to T cell manufacturing
- Immuno-oncology startup Torque last week unveiled a modular T cell manufacturing process, dubbed "Slipstream," by which it plans to support its first clinical trial in solid and blood cancers later this year.
- Torque designed Slipstream to be a closed process, with a smaller footprint than how currently on-market T cell therapies are manufactured. The company claims production capacity can be increased quickly, by adding on extra arrays in a "Lego-like fashion."
- The platform will be housed at University of California Davis' Good Manufacturing Practice facility, where it will supply Torque's initial clinical studies. Torque is currently in IND-enabling stages of developing IL-15 primed T cells, as well as lead optimization for other preclinical programs.
While cell therapies have opened up a new approach to treating certain cancers, manufacturing and supply chain remain major hurdles impacting the treatments' development.
Current cell therapies like CAR-T involve the extraction of patient T cells, which are then transported in carefully managed conditions to a central manufacturing facility. There, genetic engineering techniques are used to modify the T cells to target a specific type of cancer. Production is labor-intensive, and maintaining chains of custody and identity is vital to success.
Torque is approaching things a little differently, both with its "deep-primed" T cell approach and how it plans to produce its therapies.
Slipstream, likened by the startup to "compact factories," can be used centrally in large-scale production sites but potentially in more regional facilities closer to the point-of-care, Torque said.
Gerhard Bauer, who heads up the UC Davis Good Manufacturing Practice lab, also noted that a closed manufacturing system like Torque's Slipstream would reduce contamination risk as well as the overall facility footprint needed for manufacturing.
Larger cell therapy companies, including Gilead and Celgene, are also exploring more automated methods for manufacturing and engineering T cells.
Torque's "deep-priming" platform, meanwhile, is designed to prime and activate T cells against a number of tumor antigens, while also tethering immuno-stimulatory molecules like IL-15 to the immune cells. Unlike CAR-T, there is no genetic engineering involved as Torque uses cells retaining their natural T cell receptor.
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