Human antibodies may be the key to successfully treating many types of cancers, or so AIMM Therapeutics demonstrated with their unique research method. They found functional antibodies in successfully treated (cancer) patients. The patents AIMM was granted for this invention now enable them to attract investors for more research.
Starting out as a unit of the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center, AIMM Therapeutics originally developed antibodies against infectious diseases such as CMV, HRSV, influenza and MRSA. Currently, AIMM develops antibodies for oncological indications. They discovered a specific antibody in the blood of a patient who had recovered from a stage-4 melanoma; an advanced form of skin cancer with metastases in the brain. The patient had previously been successfully treated with an experimental T cell-based immunotherapy. So-called B cells, the immune cells producing antibodies against the cancer cells, were selected from this patient’s blood. In doing so AIMM found an antibody, named AT1412, capable of inhibiting tumor growth.
Because of their special AIMM-Select technique, AIMM was able to isolate B cells. “The problem here was that human B cells were incapable of surviving for long in culture. Our technique made it possible to allow the delicate but highly valuable immune cells to survive and to obtain the antibody AT1412 from them,” says John Womelsdorf, CEO at AIMM Therapeutics. “To see whether the antibody could indeed have an effect against tumor cells, we placed it in contact with those cells. It turned out that we were able to inhibit the growth of the tumor cells, in any case for melanoma. We’ve meanwhile found that this technique can also be effective against cancer cells of intestinal, lung and breast tumors. The beauty of it all is that patients can help each other this way.”
‘’Because we’ve protected our invention, we can obtain hundreds of millions of euros from investors.’’John Womelsdorf – AIMM Therapeutics
When it comes to treating many types of cancer, this discovery is a golden opportunity for AIMM. Womelsdorf says, “Getting our therapeutic antibodies into the clinic requires hundreds of millions of euros. We can only obtain such funds if investors have the certainty that our invention is properly protected and cannot be copied. Without protection of our intellectual property, no money; without money, no science; without science, no cancer treatment.” Saskia van Doorn, patent attorney at V.O., has been working together with AIMM on their patent portfolio for years. “Previously, the main goal used to be the selling and licensing of the antibodies against infectious diseases. The patent strategy now focuses on the protection of AIMM’s own products that are active against tumors.”
Womelsdorf says, “Saskia can be found regularly at our company, which is a good thing. That is how she knows what makes us tick.” Saskia van Doorn elucidates, “AIMM uses human, natural material. The challenge then is to claim such a product from nature. In the United States, for instance, this is not permitted. By zooming in on an artificial aspect of the therapeutic antibody, we have nonetheless managed to protect the product by a patent.” Womelsdorf adds, “This was only possible through intensive collaboration. I consider Saskia a virtual AIMM employee. She helps us generate the highest income for research at a low investment.”