What’s next for neoantigens

The next act for neoantigens includes cell therapies and a broader range of targets

With Phase I data trickling in for first-generation vaccines, neoantigen companies are now pursuing new modalities, including cell therapy, and developing tools to expand the target space.

Over a dozen companies have launched programs to immunize cancer patients against mutations in their own tumors, which produce “non-self” peptide antigens akin to those from foreign pathogens.

The collective bet is that the resource-intensive process of designing and manufacturing neoantigen therapies for each patient will yield more potent immune responses than prior generations of off-the-shelf vaccines against antigens that are overexpressed on tumors but still considered “self” by the immune system (see “Neo Wave”).

The Phase I data disclosed show companies have succeeded in stimulating T cell responses using a variety of tools to identify neoantigens and different modalities to deliver them, such as peptides and nucleic acids. The jury is still out on whether those responses will translate into durable therapeutic benefit (see “Reading into the First Wave of Neoantigen Results”).

Company pipelines, financings and publications are signaling where the neoantigen field is going next.

At least three companies with clinical-stage neoantigen vaccines -- Neon Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:NTGN), Gritstone Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:GRTS) and Genocea Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GNCA) -- have disclosed they are also developing neoantigen-targeted

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