Adaptimmune, the T cell therapy company pioneering enhanced T cell receptor-driven T cells for the treatment of cancer and infectious disease, announces two new Board appointments with immediate effect. Dr Jonathan Knowles joins the Board as a non-executive director and Dr Helen Tayton-Martin, Adaptimmune’s Chief Operating Officer, becomes an executive director.
Adaptimmune is strengthening its Board following the opening of three pilot cancer trials and an HIV trial earlier this year. With additional trials in further cancer indications scheduled to open in 2012, the company is equipping itself with further expertise to meet the challenges of the next stage of its development.
Dr. Knowles has had a distinguished career in academia and in the pharmaceutical industry, stepping down from his executive positions at the end of 2009. Formerly, President of Group Research and Member of the Executive Committee at Roche Holdings Limited, Basel, Switzerland, a post held for 12 years, Dr Knowles also served as a Board member at Genentech Inc for over ten years and was a Member of the Board of Chugai Pharmaceuticals, Tokyo, Japan. Prior to joining Roche in 1997, Dr Knowles was Research Director, Glaxo Wellcome Europe.
Dr Knowles has also served as Chairman of the EFPIA research Directors Group and was instrumental in creating the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) (a Joint Undertaking with the EU Commission). He is Chairman of the Hever Group, Professor at EPFL, Switzerland, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland, holds a visiting chair at the University of Oxford, and is a William Pitt Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Dr Tayton-Martin has been Chief Operating Officer of Adaptimmune since the company’s formation in July 2008, having joined from commercial roles in Adaptimmune’s predecessor companies, MediGene and Avidex Limited. With a PhD in molecular immunology from Bristol University and an MBA from London Business School, Dr Tayton-Martin has worked in pharmaceutical drug development, business development and consultancy for almost 20 years. She has been instrumental in driving forward all of Adaptimmune’s commercial, operational and development activities to date.
Commenting on the appointments, Nicholas Cross, Chairman of Adaptimmune, said: “We are very fortunate that someone as distinguished as Jonathan has agreed to become a director of Adaptimmune. With so many programmes now running and planned in multiple indications in the clinic, he will provide us with invaluable advice on our development strategy at this critical stage of the company’s evolution.”
On Dr Tayton-Martin’s appointment, he added: “Helen has been a key member of the team from the start, has driven the company forward into the clinic and we are delighted that she is joining the Board as the company prepares for the next stage of development and commercialization planning for its T cell therapy platform.”
Commenting, Dr Knowles said: “Adaptimmune has a novel approach for revolutionizing T cell therapy, with the potential to provide highly effective treatments for serious diseases such as cancer. I am excited at becoming part of the Adaptimmune team to help bring these therapies to patients.”
Dr Tayton-Martin commented: “Adaptimmune has achieved a tremendous amount in a very short space of time. This is testament to the high calibre team we have and invaluable academic partnerships. I am delighted to become a director as the company begins gathering clinical data on its approach and establishing the basis for commercialization.”
Adaptimmune Limited is focused on the use of T cell therapy to treat HIV and cancer. It aims to utilize the body’s own machinery – the T lymphocyte cell – to target and destroy cancerous or infected cells. Established in July 2008, Adaptimmune was set up to develop Immunocore Ltd’s (formerly Avidex/MediGene Ltd’s) unique T cell receptor engineering technology for adoptive T cell therapy. Specifically, Adaptimmune makes use of the body’s ability to recognize infected or cancerous cells by enhancing the power of the T cell receptor (TCR) on killer T cells. Cancerous or virally infected cells will typically present small parts or peptides of larger viral proteins or abnormal cancer proteins on their surface, offering a “molecular fingerprint”, called an epitope, for killer T-cells from the immune system to identify. In a healthy individual, this triggers an immune response, eliminating the affected cell. However, viruses such as HIV mutate rapidly, swiftly disguising their fingerprints to allow them to hide from killer T-cells while cancer proteins are usually derived from self-proteins against which natural TCRs do not respond. Adaptimmune’s technology uniquely enhances the natural TCR affinity to either viral or cancer protein epitopes on an individual patient’s cells overcoming these obstacles for therapeutic benefit.
Adaptimmune has undertaken significant preclinical development with a number of pipeline TCRs to demonstrate their potency and specificity in vitro. With four trials open and enrolling patients in the US for the treatment of HIV, multiple myeloma, melanoma and synovial sarcoma, it is now poised to gather clinical safety and efficacy data on three of its current pipeline of TCRs with several others following on in preclinical development.