Despite advances in prevention, detection and treatment, cancer remains a major killer. Whilst experimental evidence for immunological control of tumor growth is well established, it was only relatively recently accepted that avoiding detection by the immune system is a contributing factor in cancer development. Tumours are now known to induce various defence mechanisms to subvert immune attack, some of which are now targeted by drugs that reverse this immune inhibition. These drugs include the revolutionary T cell ‘checkpoint inhibitors’ that have resulted in durable responses in some cancer patients.
Unfortunately, however, these drugs show no clinical benefit in the majority of cancers, while in favourable cancer types, it is only a minority of patients that will respond to such therapies and some of these patients will eventually develop resistance.
At oNKo-innate we believe that the next major advances in cancer immunotherapy will result from strategies that recruit, integrate and activate a more diverse immune response. With our leading understanding of Natural Killer ‘NK‘ cells as a key coordinator of efficient anti-tumour immunity, we are identifying and developing the next generation of cancer immunotherapies.
Founded by Professor Nicholas Huntington (CSO) and Doctor Jai Rautela (CEO), oNKo-innate leverages a 20-year academic background in fundamental NK cell biology and cutting-edge in-house screening platforms to define and drug the dominant molecular mechanisms responsible for NK cell function and tumor detection. NK cells have evolved numerous germline-encoded receptors to ligands preferentially expressed on cancer cells and these interactions are central to immune surveillance. Soluble factors from the tumour microenvironment also impact on NK cell reactivity to cancer. Alterations in NK cell receptor signaling in the context of cancer ultimately govern the ability of NK cells to be activated and kill cancer cells.
Using primary NK cells and cancer models as screening tools, our R & D initiatives have uncovered major molecular ‘handles‘ by which NK cells specifically detect cancers and accessory ‘switches‘ that govern the magnitude to which NK cells will respond to cancers, forming the core of our target pipeline. oNKo-innate is also highly regarded for expertise in genetic manipulation of primary human NK cells placing us at the vanguard of NK cellular therapy innovation, while our unique genome-wide screening platforms that exploit NK cell tumour immunity continue to provide novel targets and grow our NK cell therapeutic pipeline.