Pharma Focus America

Yellowstone Biosciences Begins with £16.5 Million Investment to Create Soluble Bispecific TCR Cancer Treatments

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Yellowstone Biosciences, a pioneer in developing soluble bispecific T-cell receptor (TCR)-based therapies targeting human leukocyte antigen (HLA) Class II in oncology, has officially launched today. The company aims to target frequently expressed antigens with the potential to transform cancer treatment. Syncona Limited has committed £16.5 million to support Yellowstone in advancing its operations, particularly focusing on its lead program in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and exploring further pipeline expansions.

Originating from the University of Oxford and supported by Oxford University Innovation (OUI), Yellowstone is based on the innovative research of Professor Paresh Vyas, a leading figure in AML research and treatment. Over the past two decades, Professor Vyas' lab has accumulated a proprietary biobank of more than 10,000 samples from over 3,000 AML patients, including a rare cohort treated successfully with allogeneic blood cell transplantation. This biobank has led to the discovery of new peptide antigens commonly presented by HLA Class II, paving the way for a novel class of cancer therapeutics.

Yellowstone aims to develop therapies using soluble bispecific TCRs to target these HLA-II-presented peptides on cancer cells, potentially offering a targeted approach that selectively destroys cancer cells while sparing healthy ones. The company's initial focus will be on AML, which is responsible for 62% of leukemia deaths and lacks universally agreed-upon treatment standards. Additionally, Yellowstone's technology holds promise for treating other common cancers expressing HLA-II, such as ovarian, non-small cell lung, colorectal, prostate, breast, renal cancers, and melanoma.

The management team, led by Professor Vyas as Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, and Julian Hirst as Co-founder and Chief Financial Officer, brings decades of experience in biotechnology and investment banking. Neil Johnston, Executive Chair, brings extensive experience from 17 years at Novartis, most recently as Global Head of Business Development and Licensing. Syncona, a leading FTSE 250 life sciences investor, will guide Yellowstone, with Chris Hollowood and Gonzalo Garcia from Syncona joining the Board to oversee strategic direction.

Professor Vyas expressed optimism about the potential of their newly identified targets to selectively target tumor cells across various cancers. Gonzalo Garcia highlighted the significance of these tumor-selective antigens, emphasizing the potential to develop therapies benefiting a large number of patients. The collaboration with Syncona aims to establish a leading UK-based company based on these innovative scientific discoveries.

Support from OUI’s Dr. Susan Campbell and Dr. Benedicte Menn has been crucial during Yellowstone’s spin-out from the University of Oxford, with OUI also holding a board observer position to continue guiding the company’s growth.

Dr. Menn expressed confidence in Yellowstone’s potential to become a world-class entity in the UK, focusing initially on AML and expanding into broader cancer treatment, supported by its partnership with Syncona.



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