Prof. Dr. Lukas Jeker, assistant professor at the University Hospital at the University of Basel and founder of Cimeio, made a significant discovery in his lab.
The technology of cell shielding
Using gene editing tools to insert novel protein variants into HSCs or other types of cells allows the cells to maintain their function while making them resistant to depletion by the paired immunotherapy.
Doing so significantly improves the eligibility and outcomes of hematopoietic stem cell transplants and adoptive cell therapy. The proprietary immunotherapies deplete diseased cells, while the cell-shielding technology protects healthy transplanted cells, allowing a continued safe administration post-transplant.
Recently, Cimeio announced the U.S. Patent Office has issued a key patent covering the company’s Shielded-Cell & Immunotherapy Pairs (SCIP) platform.
The beginnings of Cimeio
Cimeio’s origins lay in basic scientific research started in 2014 in Lukas’ lab that he had just set up at the Department of Biomedicine, the joint venture of the University, the University Hospital and the University Children’s Hospital in Basel.
Initially, the idea was to develop a CRISPR/Cas-based tool to identify functionally relevant miRNA/target interactions to elucidate T cell regulation. To get there, the team used a trick: they edited congenic marker proteins in mouse T cells. The advantage is that a single amino acid exchange in this system flips reactivity of the engineered protein between two antibodies. The flip can therefore easily be quantified using flow cytometry. With this system Lukas Jeker’s team optimized the editing and he realized the enormous potential of CRISPR/Cas to employ allele engineering. With his clinical background Lukas knew this could be used to distinguish donor and host cells and could therefore be exploited therapeutically. These early results were published in a peer reviewed journal after a patent application had been filed.¹
Lukas started talking to Unitectra, the technology transfer office of the University of Basel, and filed the foundational intellectual property (IP). As a next step, he sought to outlicense this IP to gene editing companies, but they weren’t interested. It was too early.
Lukas quickly concluded that the only way to further develop this approach therapeutically is to found a company. He took some entrepreneurial classes at Unibas and Innosuisse and then contacted BaseLaunch.
But the technology was still a little bit too premature to spin out a company. We advised Lukas to come back once some more foundational data was available as he had the advantage of being able to conduct more translational research still within the academic setting.
Support from BaseLaunch
In 2018, Lukas came back. He put together a compelling deck, explaining his technology, the approach, the supportive data and a rough path forward. He sent off his application and… got the support!