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T-Therapeutics  I  Science

Refining T cell biology to develop powerful biologics

T Cell Biology

T cells are a type of white blood cell that are an essential part of your immune system and play a central role in the adaptive immune response.

One type of T cell acts as ‘killer cells’, attacking cells infected by a virus or other pathogen which they recognise through fragments of foreign proteins (antigens) displayed on the surface of these cells.

Once the threat has gone, these T cells become dormant. Some will remain as memory cells for many years: if the threat returns, your immune system can recognise it and fight it off quickly.

Peptides presented on the surface of cells provide unlimited access to the whole human proteome.

T cells play an important role in fighting cancer.

A normal cell transforms into a cancer cell through a series of mutations in its DNA. These result in changes to the protein fragments displayed on the surface of the cancer cell.

Cancer cells expressing tumour-specific peptides which are promising therapeutic targets.

Mutated protein fragments, known as neoantigens, can be recognised by T cells but most of the fragments – although cancer specific – are not recognised.

These fragments are derived from genes which are re-expressed in the cancer cell and recognised as “self”. Owing to this process, tumours are able to evade the immune system to grow and spread.

While probing their environment, some T cells can read an exposed cancer peptide via their unique TCR and recognise tumours as threats.

The part of the T cell that binds to a foreign antigen or cancer neoantigen is called the T cell receptor (TCR). It is this binding of the TCR to an antigen that causes T cell activation, proliferation and differentiation.

Advances in our understanding of T cell biology have enabled the development of immuno-oncology drugs such as check point inhibitors. These work by stimulating the response to cancer neo-antigens but they are unable to overcome the inability to recognise the cancer-specific “self” antigens.

The approach we are using to target cancer cells is also being developed for autoimmune conditions – although in this case we are aiming to suppress inflammation in a highly specific manner.

T cells attack compromised cells when their TCR recognises the disease-associated peptide on the surface of the target cell.

T-Therapeutics is developing drugs which can recognise these self-antigens and re-direct T cells to kill these cancer cells.

Our Technology

Best-in-class transgenic mouse platform combined with disease-to-target discovery approach.

Prof. Allan Bradley FRS, FMedSci
Chief Executive Officer
T-Therapeutics
Suite 1
Riverside 3
Granta Park
Cambridge
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