Juno is focused on revolutionizing medicine by re-engaging the body’s immune system to treat cancer. Founded on the vision that the use of human T cells as therapeutics will drive one of the next important phases in medicine, we are developing cell-based cancer immunotherapies based on our chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and high-affinity T cell receptor (TCR) technologies to genetically engineer T cells to recognize and kill cancer cells. We have shown compelling evidence of tumor shrinkage in clinical trials using multiple cell-based product candidates to address refractory B-cell lymphomas and leukemias. Longer term, Juno aims to develop our cell-based platform to include additional product candidates to address a broad range of cancers and human diseases.
The use of human T cells as therapeutics to re-engage the immune system has the potential to revolutionize the way cancer is treated. Juno’s technologies genetically engineer a patient’s own T cells to recognize and kill cancer cells. These cellular therapies have the potential to be effective regardless of the type of previous treatments patients have experienced and may avoid the long-term side effects associated with current treatments. We use two different technologies to target cancer cells and activate T cells, CARs and TCRs.
Harness the Power of the Human Immune System to Treat Intractable Diseases
A central player in cancer immunotherapy is a type of white blood cell known as the T cell. In healthy individuals, T cells identify and kill infected or abnormal cells, including cancer cells. We leverage two technologies—CARs and TCRs—to activate a patient’s own T cells so that they attack cancer cells. Through genetic engineering, we insert a gene for a particular CAR or TCR construct into the T cell that enables it to recognize cancer cells. Our CAR technology directs T cells to recognize cancer cells based on the expression of specific proteins located on the cell surface, whereas our TCR technology provides the T cells with a specific T cell receptor to recognize protein fragments derived from either the surface or inside the cell.
To manufacture our therapeutic T cell product candidates, we harvest blood cells from a cancer patient, separate or enrich for the appropriate T cells, activate the cell, insert the gene sequence for the CAR or TCR construct into the cell’s DNA, and grow these modified T cells to the desired dose level. The modified T cells can then be infused into the patient or frozen and stored for later infusion. Once infused, the T cells are designed to multiply when they encounter the targeted proteins and to kill the targeted cancer cells. We are investing substantially in a process that we believe is commercially scalable for both CARs and TCRs.
Our CAR and TCR technologies alter T cells ex vivo, or outside the body, so that the T cells can recognize specific proteins on the surface or inside cancer cells or other diseased cells in order to kill those diseased cells. With both our CAR and TCR technologies, we (1) harvest a patient’s white blood cells in a process called leukapheresis, and while ex vivo we (2) select and activate certain T cells of interest. (3) Gene sequences for the CAR or TCR construct are transferred into the T cell DNA using a viral vector, such as a lentivirus or a gamma retrovirus. The number of cells is (4) expanded until it reaches the desired dose. These genetically engineered cells are (5) infused back into the patient.