As part of WuXi AppTec’s ongoing efforts to collaboratively foster new thinking and actionable approaches in advancing breakthroughs for patients, we have launched a new interview series in 2022 – “Delivering on the Promise of New Modalities” – so leading voices of R&D can share how their approaches are addressing the barriers standing in the way of breakthroughs.
Our next interview in this series features Daniel Getts, CEO, Co-Founder & Board Director of Myeloid Therapeutics, a clinical stage mRNA-immunotherapy company harnessing the power of myeloid and innate biology to engineer novel therapies that elicit a broad immune response for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Myeloid has recently entered into strategic partnerships with Prime Medicine and Acuitas, and launched with $50 million in financing just last year. Myeloid Therapeutics’ proprietary platform provides clinical solutions that match therapeutic modalities to disease conditions, including use of autologous cell therapies, in vivo cell programming using mRNA, RNA-based gene-editing using RetroT™ and multi-targeted biologics.
Thanks for taking the time to join us, Daniel! For developing cancer and autoimmune disease treatments, what are the challenges for the industry? What’s your approach?
Daniel: Myeloid tackles very difficult, high unmet medical need indications like PTCL, liver cancer and glioblastoma. In these cancer types, the industry-wide challenges to solving these diseases have been finding an efficacious and safe therapeutic modality, and then successfully delivering a drug to these tumor types. At Myeloid, we use a broad range of cell and gene therapy approaches to tackle these historically challenging indications. In cell therapy, the field has experienced tremendous success with multiple approved therapies over the last decade, but limitations of the first-generation products exist with problems in manufacturing cost-effective, scalable, editable therapies that can be used for a wide range of patients. These approaches have also not been shown to impact the treatment of solid tumors and we are working towards a breakthrough outcome in major tumor types. Myeloid’s next-generation technologies, in particular our in vivo reprogramming, novel CARs and gene-editing, hold the potential to deliver clinical breakthroughs by harnessing a full immune response and expanding upon the industry lessons learned from earlier technologies and approaches.
Your company is working on several new modalities like cell therapy and cell programming. What’s the novelty? How are they different from existing approaches?
Daniel: At Myeloid, we deploy novel mRNA-based CAR therapies to shift the treatment paradigm for cancer and many autoimmune diseases. Our CARs can be delivered by a range of methods, as clinical and disease circumstances warrant, whether as autologous cells, allogeneic cells, or in vivo direct reprogramming of targeted cells. This approach shows a broad immune response and indications of heating the tumor microenvironment (TME). I have a very strong belief that we can make a significant step forward with this bold vision someday soon, by continuing to accelerate our technology and clinical approaches to treatment, including in combination with adaptive cell therapies. As an immunologist by training, I recognize that leveraging the immune system holds the potential to treat a long list of diseases, and this is what we’ve prioritized at Myeloid.
Our therapies and targeted cells promote direct tumor-killing, infiltration and tumor microenvironment remodeling. These approaches promote proinflammatory cytokines to combat tumor suppressive factors, and present neoantigens for uptake and cross-present antigen to T cells, which suggest that our targeting of the myeloid compartment sets us apart from others in the field. By integrating knowledge from the fields of RNA biology, immunology, and medicine, we have created a proprietary platform that can be tailored for the clinical indication and patient needs. The breadth and depth of our platform present Myeloid as an emerging leader in immunology.
Do you see any challenges in realizing the full potential of your technologies? What’s your strategy to solve them?
Daniel: The proprietary data derived from Myeloid technologies gives us continued conviction that we are on a path to create a significant impact on patients’ lives and the field of immunology. We’ve made tremendous progress in a short amount of time, particularly a function of the technology scalability and resulting from operational execution. We are a clinical-stage company and we were the first company to dose a patient with a novel mRNA CAR monocyte therapy; we have presented preclinical data at AACR 2022 demonstrating the potential for our technology to program cells directly in vivo, representing a highly-disruptive approach to new product realization. We have partnered with solid companies, like Acuitas and Prime Medicine, to de-risk our pipeline and bring these therapies to the next level for patients. Over the next several years, we expect to continue managing a portfolio, with a priority on the development of our in vivo programming approaches, advancing our next-gen CARs, and accelerating our portfolio through key enabling collaborations. To ensure future success towards these ambitious goals, we, like all emerging growth biotechs, face multiple challenges . We view this as healthy and are confident that our track record of innovation will see Myeloid emerge stronger and well-positioned within the next growth stage of the sector. As this sector recalibration occurs, we are mindful of methods to advance our assets within creative collaborations, and ultimately, we are keeping our eye on getting these therapies to patients, on a global basis, and as soon as feasible.
COVID has altered the pharma/biotech industry. What are some of the lessons learned now that potentially we can apply to the challenges that we’re talking about today?
Daniel: COVID changed the biotech industry in monumental ways. My office window looks directly onto the Moderna headquarters across the street and I feel inspired every day thinking about the innovations made to create multiple vaccines within a short amount of time. The entire world was looking towards the biotech sector for new product innovation, waiting for clinical solutions to blunt or mitigate the magnitude of diseases. Multiple companies delivered meaningful advances for society, but also to catalyze interest in technologies that had not been harnessed fully, like mRNA, LNPs, or other novel delivery approaches. We have never seen anything like what happened during COVID in the last 100 years – it was nothing short of remarkable and it inspired many companies in our industry to challenge working assumptions, deploy faster, and more creatively. It also demonstrated that collaboration is key – when a collective goal is on the horizon, (e.g., to find a vaccine for a deadly infectious disease), industry constituents brought together and integrated key technologies into new products. They rose to a unique challenge, together, to improve human health. Ultimately, that is our job – as an industrial sector and certainly at Myeloid –to find solutions for patients, sooner. We accomplish more together.
Thanks for your insights. Let’s talk about future before we close. In your opinion, what could be the next big scientific breakthrough in the life science industry?
Daniel: My expectation is that the next big scientific breakthrough, by which I mean disruptive and transformative for patients and across industry competitive dynamics, may actually come from some of what we are working on at Myeloid – in vivo reprogramming of innate immunity for difficult to treat diseases. The rationale for in vivo reprogramming arises from the challenges associated with the development of ex vivo cell therapies – manufacturability, scalability and the risk of immune rejection. Despite progression toward 1 day manufacturing & allogenic approaches, challenges remain – e.g., the need to replicate in vivo microenvironments for cells within in vitro conditions and to process variation between cell type, indications or disease areas. Whilst we balance the natural potential of autologous cells at Myeloid, if we can successfully program a cell directly within a patient, the entire landscape and treatment paradigm for cancer and many other diseases changes overnight. We are therefore, putting a lot of our internal emphasis towards such an outcome and executing on plans to bring this innovation to cancer patients within 12 months.
Dr. Getts is co-founder and CEO, of Myeloid Therapeutics, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has led Myeloid since its founding and scaled it into a Company with multiple clinical products and a deep preclinical pipeline within three years of founding. Prior to Myeloid, Dr. Getts was VP of Research at TCR2, where he was a member of the leadership team that guided the company successfully through a series B ($120M) financing and an IPO (~$80M). Dr. Getts primary duties included leading the company’s target discovery, preclinical and translational research programs. These efforts resulted in numerous patent applications, a robust pipeline and a successfully filed IND. Prior to TCR2, Dr. Getts was primary inventor, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cour Pharmaceuticals Development Company, a nanotechnology platform company focused on autoimmunity and inflammation. As a member of the Cour leadership team he assisted in the negotiation of a number of pharmaceutical company collaborations and licenses, including with Takeda, who ultimately licensed TIMP-GLIA for $420M plus royalties. Prior to Cour, Dr. Getts was the Director of Research & Development at Tolera Therapeutics where he was the lead immunologist responsible for advancing the company’s monoclonal T cell antibody program from discovery through to Phase 3. A recipient of numerous honors and awards, including >10 issued patents and many more pending patent applications. Daniel is widely published with >45 peer-reviewed publications, with seminal publications in Nature Biotechnology, Science Translational Medicine and Nature Communications. He completed his Postdoctoral training in Stephen D. Miller’s laboratory at Northwestern University. He holds a PhD in Medicine from the University of Sydney and an MBA from Western Michigan University.