Notch Therapeutics – a new company with a revolutionary allogeneic (“off the shelf”) T cell technology

In a news release, Notch Therapeutics, a company in the emerging field of gene-modified T cell therapy, states it has been created to commercialize a revolutionary technology that creates allogeneic (donor) gene-edited T cells from stem cells on an industrial scale, efficiently making T cell therapies that are clinically robust and of a consistently high quality. Notch is actively pursuing industry partnerships.

The founders of Notch – Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto (UoT), Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP) and CCRM, with Lumira Ventures as an additional investor – created Notch to provide a vehicle through which to further develop and bring to market the combined pioneering research, nearly ten years underway, from the labs of Drs. Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker, Senior Scientist in Biological Sciences at Sunnybrook, and Chair of the Department of Immunology at UoT; and of Peter Zandstra, Professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at UoT and Director, School of Biomedical engineering and Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia.

“This technology is very promising and might be used to create therapies to treat some of our greatest medical challenges, like cancer, autoimmune diseases and organ transplant rejection. It’s also the first and only method that can reconstitute immune systems,” says Dr. Andy Smith, President and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “Finally having options to target these high-impact areas for our patients is what we mean when we say we are inventing the future of health care.” Jennifer Fraser, Director Innovations at the University of Toronto, comments that “Dr. Zúñiga-Pflücker’s allogeneic T cell therapy was one of the first projects I worked on when I joined UoT. It’s very gratifying to see the technology move toward the clinic”.

Even as the field for these therapies grows rapidly, major challenges have until now prevented wider adoption mainly due to a slow and expensive manufacturing process which yielded variable results. The Notch technology, however, shows promise for surmounting these issues costeffectively and reliably. Notch, having been incubated at CCRM, will be able to leverage its inhouse process development expertise and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility, located in downtown Toronto. It offers universally enhanced T cell therapies against high-impact diseases, using stem cells as a renewable source to expand treatment options and deliver cost-effective immunotherapies to patients. The aim of Notch is to generate T cells from multiple sources of stem cells and provide a platform for research and development, and a better way of manufacturing T cells and their applications for treating cancers or immune deficiencies.

“TIAP is pleased that, after many years of nurturing this research and investing in the risky early-stages with our co-founders, we are now seeing a truly ground-breaking new health science technology make its way through development in a very encouraging way. This is yet another example of what can be done through TIAP’s unique ability within the community to bundle technologies across multiple institutions. This is a true collaboration which has resulted in development of a technology that will have significant impact”, says Dr. Rafi Hofstein, President & CEO of TIAP.

“Notch Therapeutics is a star pupil in CCRM’s incubation program,” says Dr. Michael May, President and CEO of CCRM. “By de-risking the technology and designing Proof of Concept studies to appeal to investors, attracting experienced start-up management, and working with our ecosystem partners, we have collectively given Notch every opportunity to succeed”.

Dr. Benjamin Rovinski, Managing Director of Lumira Ventures, states: “Early on, our team recognized Notch’s novel and differentiated platform and its potential to produce safer, more effective, and scalable allogeneic T cell therapies. We are pleased to be part of the financing syndicate. The quality and breadth of science coming out of Canadian universities is phenomenal, and important innovators like Notch are able to access capital, knowledge and the engaged support of Lumira and other investors, to enable the development and commercialization of their technology. We are excited to work with the entire Notch team.”