Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul Celebrates Launch of Innovative Immunotherapy Biotech Company Based in Buffalo

Roswell Park spinoff Tactiva Therapeutics LLC will create jobs, develop new cancer therapies
Friday, February 3, 2017
Highlights: 
New RPCI spinoff company will develop next-generation cancer immunotherapies
Novel approach combines unique adoptive T cell therapy with stem cell therapy
Clinical trial planned in ovarian, pancreatic and other hard-to-treat cancers

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tactiva Therapeutics LLC, a new biotech company spun off from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, will create jobs as it develops some of the most promising concepts in the burgeoning field of cancer immunotherapy and accelerates the timeline for getting beneficial therapies to patients.

Founded by a trio of Buffalo entrepreneurs, Tactiva will pursue and expand concepts originating from Roswell Park’s Center for Immunotherapy. Located within the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, immediately adjacent to Roswell Park laboratories and research support facilities, the company will create employment opportunities within the life sciences and develop new therapies designed to give cancer patients better, more effective treatment options.

“The new biotech company spun off from Roswell Park Cancer Institute showcases the potential for New York innovation to impact lives around the world,” said Lieutenant Governor Hochul during an announcement at Roswell Park today. “Tactiva Therapeutics is a perfect example of how government, business and academia can join forces to accomplish great things, including creating more jobs for Western New York.”

Tactiva’s lead platform is a unique approach to adoptive cell transfer (ACT), a form of immunotherapy in which a patient’s own immune cells are drawn from blood, genetically engineered, multiplied and injected back into the patient in order to launch a powerful attack against cancer. Tactiva’s novel therapies use particular types of immune cells and cell reengineering processes that have never been employed before, in a way that may prove beneficial for patients with many different kinds of cancer.

There are two main types of T cells, or T lymphocytes, within the immune system — the so-called “helper” T cells, and the “killer” T cells. Through preclinical studies at Roswell Park, the Tactiva team developed a way to make “helper” CD4 T cells also act as “killer” CD8 T cells that can destroy tumor cells, significantly extending the durability of the antitumor response.

“We’re using fundamental principles of how the immune system works to enhance the body’s own ability to attack and eliminate cancer cells,” says Tactiva Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, also Deputy Director, Chair of Gynecologic Oncology and Center for Immunotherapy Executive Director at Roswell Park. “We’re making the two main types of immune cells work together in a way that has never been tried before, and which we believe will have long-lasting effects for patients with some of the most persistent, hard-to-treat cancers.”

Tactiva plans to initiate a clinical trial within the next year that will make this novel platform available to patients for the first time. Preclinical studies suggest that the Tactiva platform may be an effective approach for treating several different solid and liquid tumors, including some ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, lung, esophageal, melanoma and sarcoma cancers, as well as some forms of multiple myeloma.

“We will take a patient’s own stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells that are the progenitors of all other blood cells, and engineer them to express specialized T-cell receptors that recognize and target cancer cells without damaging healthy cells,” adds Richard Koya, MD, PhD, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Tactiva as well as Associate Director of the Roswell Park Center for Immunotherapy. “The self-perpetuating nature of the stem cells gives them the ability to provide lifelong protection against cancer, standing on guard like a sentry. While much will depend on our early clinical trials, we believe this may be a highly effective way to deliver a lethal and enduring hit to the tumor cells.”

“This is a potent combination of benefits, and our team’s preclinical findings convince us that this is a highly promising approach for treating cancer and keeping it at bay for many years,” says Tactiva co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Colpoys Jr., who has held numerous leadership positions during his three decades working in the pharmaceutical and medical-technology industries.

This strategy is a broadly applicable model that may, if it proves to be effective, be adapted to many different antigens and employed in a variety of different cancers, notes Dr. Odunsi, who is also Professor of Gynecology & Obstetrics in the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The foundational concepts that Tactiva will develop were established in large part thanks to grants to Dr. Odunsi and his team totaling $25 million from the National Cancer Institute and New York State Stem Cell Science Program (NYSTEM).

“We’ve been excited about immunotherapy for a long time because of its great potential in treating cancer and improving quality of life for cancer patients,” says Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson, PhD. “Tactiva has developed a unique approach that shows great promise, advancing one of our key goals: to develop our best ideas and get them quickly to the patients who can benefit most from them.”

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About Roswell Park:
The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

About Tactiva Therapeutics LLC:
Tactiva Therapeutics is an immuno-oncology company specializing in potent cancer immunotherapy using a dual T cell receptor approach. For more information, visit www.tactivatherapeutics.com

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org