PISCATAWAY, N.J.—Overcoming the challenges of manufacturing difficult neoantigen peptides critical to cancer vaccines and T cell therapies, global biotech GenScript has launched its neoantigen peptide synthesis service for biotech and pharma companies developing personalized cancer therapeutics. Unlike traditional targets such as tumor-associated antigens, neoantigens are novel peptides only present within tumor cells—and they're more in demand than ever.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) projected that there would be 1.76 million new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in the United States in 2019. With this in mind, researchers and clinicians have turned away from one-size-fits-all treatments to precision medicine.
In fact, the field of neoantigen-based therapeutics has shown more promise for cancer remission and tumor regression than other immuno-oncology therapeutics and traditional chemotherapy.
“GenScript’s neoantigen-specific peptide service is targeted to biotech and pharma companies researching and developing personalized treatments for cancer,” says Raymond Miller, global product manager of GenScript.
“A growing number of these companies are identifying antigens produced by patient-specific malignant cancer cells also known as neoantigens,” Miller adds. “Researchers believe that by developing treatments targeting these neoantigens, they can obtain a stronger patient anticancer immune response with fewer negative effects than traditional immunotherapies.”
GenScript has a 15-plus year track record manufacturing peptides for drug research and development, according to Miller, who notes: “Our neoantigen-specific peptide synthesis service is an expansion of that business, and represents our continued commitment to innovation—most recently in the field of immuno-oncology.”
Manufacturing neoantigen peptides “is more challenging given the extreme hydrophobicity of these peptides,” he explains. “These extremes promote peptide aggregation, which is something that we and our customers want to avoid.”
GenScript has found that the best solution is to first use bioinformatics tools to predict the level of difficulty in peptide synthesis, Miller says. “We then pick the best synthesis platform or ‘tool’ for the job based on our prior experience with thousands of these peptides.”
This resulted in a 95-percent success rate in synthesizing over 2,500 neoantigen peptides, he says, but the company is investigating new peptide synthesis approaches to make this even better, along with addressing some of the unique needs for peptides used in immunotherapy R&D.
“The field of immuno-oncology is growing rapidly, and our goal is to make this innovative research easier and more convenient for our customers and partners,” Miller says. “We expect continued growth in this service in 2020 and beyond, as the market increasingly prioritizes development of these personalized cell and anticancer vaccine immunotherapies.”
Despite the current pandemic, GenScript is going forward with the launch, but is also targeting COVID-19, according to Miller.
“As a global biotech company, GenScript has a deep commitment to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been supporting our partners in both research of COVID-19 and development of diagnostics approaches,” Miller says. “Since the outbreak, we have prioritized any COVID-19-related requests for genes, proteins and peptides from vaccine developers globally.”
GenScript partnered with several T cell therapy and personalized cancer vaccine companies to develop the infrastructure to reliably manufacture difficult peptides for its neoantigen peptide synthesis platform. This effort resulted most recently in Avidea Technologies’ SNAP vaccine platform, as reported in Nature Biotechnology, as well as a collaboration involving 3T Biosciences’ proprietary T cell therapy screening platform.
“3T Biosciences has been working with GenScript since 2017 to generate thousands of peptides to understand how T cell receptors recognize their targets,” noted Marvin Gee, 3T Biosciences’ co-founder. “With that information, we can better understand how to identify novel targets in solid tumors and generate safe and effective T cell receptors.”
The 3T technology “is multi-faceted due to the ability to uncover specificities in any T cell-mediated disease, covering not only oncology but also allergy, inflammation, autoimmune disease and infection, pertinent for the ongoing situation with COVID-19,” as per Gee.
GenScript has developed multiple synthesis technologies, including its NeoPre neoantigen synthesis prediction algorithm, which is applied during neoantigen peptide synthesis to analyze a peptide’s physiochemical properties (hydrophobicity, charge, aggregation potential, etc.) in order to determine which of GenScript’s technologies provides the highest chance of successful synthesis.
“GenScript is committed to developing innovative new synthesis platforms and bioinformatics tools to help our customers bring safe and effective life-saving treatments to patients more quickly and efficiently,” says Xin Zhang, GenScript Biotech’s associate director of peptide services. “Neoantigen peptide synthesis is significantly challenging, but by leveraging our microwave, solid and liquid phase synthesis platforms, along with our new NeoPre production algorithm, we are able to consistently produce difficult peptides for cancer research and drug development.”