Novartis & Harvard collaborate to develop immunotherapies

Novartis announced that it is teaming up with scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to develop biomaterial systems for its portfolio of immuno-oncology therapies.

The licensed biomaterial systems aim to overcome barriers that have hampered traditional cancer vaccines, including their limited duration of action and lack of targeting to specific cancer cells. Through many years of work researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Wyss Institute and Dana-Farber have engineered the biomaterial systems with an aim to provide sustained delivery of immunotherapies and target specific types of cancer. Novartis will further collaborate with the team at the Wyss Institute to advance development of the biomaterial systems, investigating their use to deliver agents from its broad and deep portfolio of second-generation immunotherapies.

The implantable and injectable systems are made of biodegradable materials that assemble into porous, three-dimensional structures. In lab experiments, the systems release cell-recruiting factors to attract host dendritic cells and present tumour antigens to those specialized immune cells, intending to bolster immune responses to cancer. While these systems have yet not been proven in human clinical trials, they hold great promise because of their potential to serve as engineered microenvironments to educate the immune system about cancer and initiate immune responses against tumours over a sustained period.

“Our collaborators have combined the fields of immuno-oncology and material science to develop novel platforms for delivering immunotherapies to combat cancer,” said Jay Bradner, President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). “We look forward to collaborating with the Wyss Institute to further develop this technology in conjunction with our growing immunotherapy portfolio.