Sid Mukherjee's Vor taps a CAR-T development partner to strap to its attempt at better stem cell transplants
In the buzzy world of oncology, few names shine brighter than Columbia oncologist and bestselling author Siddhartha Mukherjee, whose Vor Biopharma is looking to rewrite the rules of stem cell transplants. If his team’s tech works as planned, it would also rewrite the rules on how CAR-Ts can be deployed in blood cancer — and now it’s partnering up with a little-known biotech to test that hypothesis.
Vor has inked a multi-year discovery deal with Abound Bio to access its platform of single- and multi-target CAR-Ts to combine with Vor’s pipeline of engineered blood stem cells, the partners said Thursday.
The biotechs will initially target acute myeloid leukemia and think that a multi-targeted CAR-T paired with an HSC transplant could be a path to better treating hard-to-hit blood cancer. The Pittsburgh-based oncology player has shown preclinical data for a CD19/20-targeted CAR that caught Vor’s interest, CEO Robert Ang told Endpoints News.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The problem with using multi-targeted CARs for years has been the off-target side effects on healthy blood cells. Vor is working on transplanting stem cells into patients’ bone marrow that remove or modify the targeted antigens, theoretically allowing a CAR construct to better target tumors without the deleterious safety risks.
Ang was unequivocal when talking about Vor’s aims: The biotech is looking to completely replace standard-of-care stem cell transplants with its platform. While he couldn’t discuss what future milestones look like for the Abound deal, Ang said the development phase of that pact would run “in parallel” with Vor’s work on its stem cell platform.
“(Abound) is really a team that’s already demonstrated scientific prowess in this arena, and we think it’s a marvelous opportunity to work with them towards targets that we can utilize in our own approach,” Ang said.
Abound Bio was co-founded back in 2019 by Dimiter “Mitko” Dimitrov, the company’s chief scientific officer and a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, and CEO John Mellors. CAR-T therapy researcher Rimas Orentas serves as the biotech’s VP for cellular therapy. On top of its novel CD19/20 bispecific CAR-T, the team recently posted preclinical data on a trispecific CAR construct that could show promise far down the road.
Vor, meanwhile, is the brainchild of Mukherjee, who founded the company back in 2016 and eventually took it public in February. The company’s lead program is VOR33, an HSC the biotech is studying solo and as a pairing with CD33 targeting CAR-T candidate VCAR33, which it in-licensed from the NIH, in IND enabling studies in AML.
Ang was quick to point out the Abound deal wasn’t to be viewed as an interruption or replacement for the VOR33/VCAR33 program, where initial data is expected later in the year to early next year.
“We’ve worked really hard on one target, and that’s CD33 … but to take this to another level to look at targets outside of CD33 and to look at targeting multiple epitopes … we think that is a really attractive approach,” Ang said.