A new seed-stage biotechnology company has been spun out of Oxford University, aiming to become a world leader in developing neoantigen-based individualised cell therapies to use against difficult-to-treat solid malignancies such as ovarian cancer.
Singula Bio was co-founded by Professors Ahmed Ahmed, Enzo Cerundolo and Enda McVeigh from the Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health at Oxford University. It is supported by Oxford University Innovation (OUI), the University’s research commercialisation company, and it has secured generous seed-stage investment from IIU Nominees Limited to pursue its goals.
Motivated by their many patients (and laboratory funding from charities Ovarian Cancer Action and Cancer Research UK) Profs Ahmed and Cerundolo wanted improve an individual’s gruelling experience of cancer and to lessen their suffering of other treatments. Together, they have an enormous knowledge in cancer medicine, cancer immunology, cell and molecular biology, and computational biology which has enabled them to design patient-specific cancer cell therapies that harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
In a tumour, cancer cells carry mutations that appear foreign to a patient’s body and, therefore, their immune system reacts to these mutations. One strong form of an immune reaction is through generating mutation-specific cells called “T cells”.
Prof Ahmed, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at the Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health, Oxford University, said:“A key feature of cancer cells is the preponderance of genetic aberrations in their DNA. These aberrations can make proteins appear foreign to our body’s immune system which then develops immune cells (T cells) to fight cancer cells. Thanks to years of research and technology development we now know how to identify relevant tumour-specific T cells to grow them outside the body and deliver them back to patients to fight cancer cells.”
Prof McVeigh, Associate Professor, Oxford University, added: “The launch of Singula Bio is a bittersweet milestone for the team, as tragically Professor Cerundolo passed away in January 2020 before he could see this company realised. However, we are determined to keep his legacy going and to realise his vision that “Cancer Need not be Fatal” with Singula Bio.”
He added: “What has excited me about this work is the immediate translational nature of it; the harnessing of the body’s own defence again cancer to bring a potential cure for a disease that otherwise would be fatal.”
Cary Wakefield, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Action, added: “Only 46 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK today will survive five years beyond their diagnosis. We are excited to be a part of this innovative venture which will help accelerate the development of more effective and individualised treatments so that the next generation of women survive ovarian cancer.”