Genome writing company Replay has received a $1.56 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of uCell, a proprietary hypoimmunogenic technology platform.
Replay’s uCell platform is an off-the-shelf, genomically rewritten, hypoimmunogenic technology that allows allogeneic donor-derived primary cells and iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) to be made immune silent. The technology is expected to substantially decrease the cost-of-goods of cell therapies, improve product volume and consistency, enable extensive genome engineering and, in the case of cancer cell therapy, enable deeper clinical responses and reduced relapse rates. uCell is anticipated to form the basis of several off-the-shelf iPSC-derived immune cell therapies applicable to multiple therapeutic areas, including cancer and infectious diseases.
Adrian Woolfson, executive chairman, president, and co-founder of Replay, said: “Hypoimmunogenic technology is the ‘holy grail’ of cell therapy and the non-dilutive funding received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help accelerate the development of our uCell technology. It is expected to address many of the key challenges of cell therapy, including scalability, the ability to introduce extensive genomic modifications, and need to reduce cost-of- goods.
“We are immensely grateful to the foundation and our investors for supporting Replay’s vision for the future of genomic medicine, which includes a focus on the development of high-impact and affordable cell therapies that are accessible to both industrialized and rural communities.”
Replay to develop a off-the-shelf platform
Lachlan MacKinnon, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Replay, added: “Replay’s hypoimmunogenic technology is the result of a convergence of synthetic biology, computational design, and protein engineering with iPS cell technology. It will enable the company to develop a universal off-the-shelf platform in a reliable, scalable, and cost-effective manner, and broaden the utility and accessibility of cell therapy, including regenerative medicine applications.
“The ability to reprogram hypoimmunogenic iPSCs with our high payload synHSV platform will unlock a differentiated set of opportunities. As is the case with synHSV, and given the substantive opportunity in the space, we plan to progress our uCell technology through distinct therapeutic area-focused product companies.”
Herman Waldmann, co-inventor of uCELL and Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford, said: “As a physician scientist, it is encouraging to see Replay advance the uCell platform, which has the potential to overcome many of the current limitations of cell therapies. By making iPSCs immune silent to generate a universal cell with utility as a renewable source for cell therapies, uCell has the potential to bring the benefits of this important therapeutic modality to patients across the world.”