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Meet 007: The cell with a license to kill cancer, created by an Israeli startup

Edity is programming the body’s own immune cells to carry therapeutics to places where treatment normally cannot reach

Inside the Edity Therapaeutics lab (Edity)


To protect itself against disease, the human body has immune cells that patrol like police officers, entering disease cells and destroying them. But some dangerous cells, including some solid tumors, operate in stealth and cannot be targeted by the body’s regular immune system.

Edity Therapeutics, an Israeli startup founded in 2019, reprograms a patient’s own immune cells, giving them the ability to hunt down and destroy these cancer cells. It’s like transforming regular beat cops into lethal supersleuths.

After successful laboratory tests, Edity plans to start preclinical trials of an immune cell that the company is reprogramming to become a delivery vehicle. These cells will contain therapeutic payloads ready to find and destroy not just cancer cells – but a host of diseases currently without a cure.

If that leaves you neither shaken nor stirred, consider the codename of this avenging angel that could be the next breakthrough in targeted cell therapy: ED 007.

Edity will train ED 007 to identify solid tumors that are not usually recognized by the body’s own immune system, allowing them to grow unhindered and metastasize. ED 007 will inflame these tumors, triggering the body’s own immune system to kill the cancer. Because the retrained cells are taken from the patient’s own body, the threat of rejection and autotoxicity is hopefully eliminated.More on Edity’s funding round

“Science allows us to treat any disease in a test tube but there are still many diseases with no cure,” says Dr. Michal Golan-Mashiach, Edity’s CEO and Founder. “Edity’s technology will bring new treatment options to previously incurable diseases, offering new medicines to patients and their families.”

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The idea of programming a patient’s own cells to fight cancer has been successful in patients with blood cancer. Edity is looking to take the next step: using those retrained immune cells, like ED 007, to target more difficult-to-treat solid tumors.

“The challenge is delivering this treatment effectively to the right places inside our body. Current delivery methods face difficulties in reaching the diseased organ,” Golan-Mashiach explains. “Immune cells have evolved over millions of years to seek and detect cells anywhere in our body. At Edity, we were inspired by nature and have engineered immune cells to deliver therapeutics.”

Golan-Mashiach has experience tackling big problems.

“My journey started with diagnosing children and babies with terrible genetic diseases,” says Golan-Mashiach, who is a graduate of the Weizmann Institute and a seasoned expert in gene editing and genetic screening. Before starting Edity, she founded Applied Genomics after four years at Emendo. With that experience, she is confident that Edity’s technology can take the next step.

“Biology is the most advanced technology on Earth, and we aim to harness it to reach where no other therapy has gone before,” she says.

Edity’s process is simple, but powerful. Patients give a blood sample from which Edity extracts special white blood cells called T cells that are then engineered in the lab to carry the medicine needed for treatment. After a few days, the engineered cells are put back into the patient’s body. The medicine is loaded into the immune cells, which then navigate directly to the patient’s damaged cells, and begin to repair the diseased tissues.

“We seek to solve the delivery problem in a completely novel way,” says Dr. Sharon Avkin Nachum, Edity’s VP of Technology. “Our breakthrough was to use the immune system to transfer gene editing proteins and other proteins to cure the disease itself.”

Investors in the company include NFX Bio, headed by Omri Amirav-Drory, and Tal Ventures. Edity has also received non diluted funding from the Israel Innovation Authority. Edity is now raising a funding round on the OurCrowd global investing platform.

Edity’s trial of ED 007 comes at an exciting time for the field of cellular immune-oncology – a form of cancer treatment that uses the power of the body’s own immune system to prevent, control, and eliminate cancer. This growing treatment technique has been highly effective in treating some types of cancer, but they have been ineffective in the majority of solid tumors.

Developing effective treatments for these types of cancers will be a major focus for the field in the coming years. The immuno-oncology market was estimated at $60 billion in 2021 and is believed to be growing by 15-20% a year. Early-stage immunotherapy companies with proven technology have attracted considerable interest from potential strategic partners and acquirers. Five Prime Therapeutics was acquired by Amgen for $1.9 billion in 2021, and Trillium Therapeutics was acquired by Pfizer for $2.26 billion the same year.

Golan-Mashiach heads an expert team including Dr. Assaf Marcus, VP of Translational Science, who previously held positions at the Weizmann Institute, UC Berkeley and AbbVie, and Dr. Ofer Levy, who is VP of R&D, and has 16 years of industry experience in antibody drug discovery, including leading deals with Bayer Healthcare, and Dr. Sharon Avkin Nachum, who is VP technology with more than 15 years of experience in oligonucleotide design, synthesis, analytics, production and CMC, including leading deals with BMS.

With promising early lab tests, and an experienced team in place, Edity has already found strong interest during initial discussions with pharma companies. The company expects to achieve in vivo proof-of-concept within 9 months, followed by a Phase 1 clinical study in the following years.

“There is no other company that has our ability to selectively target and deliver medicines to diseased cells using the immune system,” Golan-Mashiach says. “We are pioneering a new frontier in cellular medicines. We are using immune cells as a delivery vehicle, similar to taxi drivers”.

Taxi drivers with a license to kill cancer.

The Times of Israel

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