Stimunity, a major advance for new immunotherapy
Nicolas Manel est chef de l’équipe Immunité innée chez l'Homme dans l’unité Immunité et cancer (Institut Curie/Inserm U932)
All started with a fundamental discovery made by the laboratory Innate Immunity ( Institut Curie/Inserm), leads by Dr. Nicolas Manel, Senior Researcher at Inserm and co-founder of Stimunity. He discovered that viruses, when they infect healthy cells, can encapsulate a molecule that acts like a Trojan horse and triggers the defenses of the immune system.
From the discovery of the cornerstone of the body’s antiviral response to Stimunity
The starting point for all innate responses is the protein cGAS, which is designed to detect the presence of viruses—such as HIV—within cells. Once it has identified a virus, cGAS synthesises the protein cGAMP. Together, cGAS and cGAMP sound the antiviral response alarm, warning non-infected cells involved in immune response that danger is at hand. “Once cGAMP has been synthesised, it is packaged into either viral capsules or extracellular vesicles,” explains Manel. “By using viral particles as a means of transportation, cGAMP can deliver its message to the targeted cells much more effectively.” Once it has been transported to the dendritic cells, cGAMP triggers immune responses, both innate and adaptive.
"The transportation of cGAMP by viruses is a rather surprising defence mechanism,” added the immunologist at the time of the discovery. “It opens up new therapeutic opportunities to stimulate the immune system response using cancer vaccines
This discovery was protected and covered by two major publications in the scientific journal Science.
This discovery gave us the idea of using a synthetic and inoffensive virus-like particle (VLP) that encapsulates the Trojan horse molecule and drives a very efficient immune response against tumor cells. This was the starting point of the project explains Dr. Manel.
“From a discovery to a drug that can be used in human, there is so much work to do. That’s why we have decided with Nicolas to join our forces and to create a startup company” says Sylvain Carlioz, co-founder and CEO of Stimunity.
The license agreement comes together with an R&D Agreement between Stimunity and Nicolas Manel’s laboratory. It will allow the company to finalize the validation of the mechanism of action of the drug, necessary to convince private investors to lead a first seed round of 2 to 5M€. This money will cover the manufacture of the drug at GMP standards and the efficacy package on pre-clinical models, two elements needed before we can enter into clinical trials by the beginning of 2019.