Penn Spinout Interius BioTherapeutics Is Developing Tools to Perform Cell and Gene Engineering Directly in the Human Body

Interius BioTherapeutics is focused on developing a new method to deliver chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) into T cells directly in the human body.

Since 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved six CAR-T cell therapies for treating refractory or relapsed lymphomas and leukemias. But CAR-T cells are highly personalized therapies that cost around six-figures. The current process requires extracting and purifying blood cells from the patient, manipulating them in a lab and infusing the modified cells back into the patient.

To mitigate the cost and patient risk of this process, researchers at Interius are generating CAR-T cells in vivo instead. Interius is using lentiviral vectors, which integrate into the host genome. As T cells are highly proliferative, “you need a vector that is going to remain there for the life of the T cell and its daughter cells,” says co-founder Saar Gill, a physician-scientist in the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “The other advantage is that it’s largely non-immunogenic,” he adds, meaning that for the most part, this type of therapy should not produce an immune response from the patient.

So far, the Interius vector shows target cell specificity >99.9% in cultured human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, according to Dora Mitchell, senior vice president of operations and chief of staff at Interius. In humanized mouse models, the Interius vector “efficiently creates CAR-T cells that eliminate normal and malignant B cells.”

Interius began in 2019 and has quickly experienced explosive growth, starting with just a few lab benches at the Pennovation Center and expanding into the Pennovation Lab building. As more in vivo research ensues at Interius, the hope is that this new technology could simplify the process of CAR-T cell therapy and make gene therapy widely available as a one-time injection to a much larger number of patients.

To learn more about Interius and their current research, read here.

Saar Gill

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