ISA plans trials of T-cell boosting COVID-19 therapy

ISA Pharmaceuticals is planning to take its COVID-19 immunotherapy into the clinic, aiming to harness the power of T-cells to prevent the disease from becoming serious in infected patients.

Based in Leiden, the Netherlands, ISA said it has completed preclinical work on ISA106 and is planning clinical trials with a phase 1 dose-finding study in healthy volunteers due in the next few months.

ISA106 is an immunotherapy agent that is intended to treat patients with SARS-CoV2 infections and prevent progressive pneumonia and further complications – thereby avoiding admission to hospital and intensive care.

T-cell therapies for COVID-19 were discussed at the American Society of Haematology (ASH) conference late last year, where AlloVir provided proof-of-concept data for its off-the-shelf T cell therapy that specifically targets the virus.

But while AlloVir’s therapy is based around a bank of COVID-seeking T-cells isolated from blood samples from recovering patients, ISA’s technology aims to boost the body’s own T-cell response.

ISA hopes that ISA106 could be used in concert with a vaccination campaign, acting as a “safety net” in case more variant strains emerge or in people who are unwilling to take vaccines.

The therapy could also be used in people whose immune system is weaker and do not respond as well to vaccines such as older people, patients with cancer and auto-immune diseases, organ transplant recipients and other immune-compromised patients.

Developers of next-generation vaccines that work against emerging variants think that stimulating a stronger T-cell response could offer more protection, as these cells target a range of proteins on the virus and not just the “Spike” protein that is prone to mutation.

ISA106 uses ISA’s Synthetic Long Peptide platform technology, also used for ISA’s lead asset ISA101b, which is in late-stage clinical development for human papilloma virus type 16 (HPV16) induced cancers.

Other assets in preclinical development and include immunotherapies, chronic hepatitis B infections, cancers that over-express PRAME biomarker, and cancers caused by other HPV types than HPV16.

Gerben Moolhuizen, CEO of ISA Pharmaceuticals, said: “There is a desperate need for effective therapeutics to fight diseases that are caused by pandemic viruses like SARS-Cov2, particularly in individuals with a compromised immune system.

“Our promising preclinical results with ISA106 highlight the potential of anti-viral T cell therapy against SARS-CoV2, and against future pandemic viruses, to provide society with an additional line of defense and help control pandemics.”

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