News: December 2013

CoStim's Novel Biologics Target Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Partners HealthCare spin-off, CoStim Pharmaceuticals, positioned to be a leader in the immune checkpoint regulation market.

With excitement growing around immune checkpoint regulation as a major advance in treating cancer, the emergence of Partners HealthCare spin-off CoStim Pharmaceuticals could not be better timed. Industry experts expect the immune checkpoint therapy market will continue to grow as additional agents and combinations are developed. According to Citibank projections, immune checkpoint agents have a market potential in excess of $20 billion by 2021. Founded in December of 2011, CoStim boasts unparalleled expertise in the field, with three of the world's leaders in immune checkpoint regulation and drug development as its founders. In just two years, CoStim has established itself with a highly attractive pipeline of antibody agents directed to costimulatory targets for the treatment of cancer and chronic viral diseases. The three founders are Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, co-director of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Infection and Immunity; Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD, a Harvard Medical School pathologist also appointed at BWH; and Gordon Freeman, PhD, an immunologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Kuchroo and Freeman have appointments at Harvard Medical School as well. Dr. Kuchroo co-chairs the CoStim Scientific Advisory Board with Dr. Sharpe. Dr. Freeman is a member of the SAB. “The company was started around the excitement in the field of immunomodulation and the work coming out of the founders' labs,” says Daniel J. Hicklin, PhD, who joined the Cambridge firm as President and Chief Scientific Officer in August. Immunomodulation therapies enable doctors to regulate a patient's immune system to attack the infection or pathogen, but not become overactivated and cause a negative impact on the patient's body. The company now employs a staff of 10 and expects rapid growth. With an experienced management team and an influential SAB, the company is positioned to be a leader in the immune checkpoint regulation market. The company also maintains collaborations with leaders in the field of immunoregulation, cancer immunotherapy and chronic viral diseases, and continues to explore strategic relationships with biopharmaceutical partners to develop its portfolio. This past March, Atlas Venture, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, MPM Capital and Partners Innovation Fund invested $22 million into CoStim in a Series A financing. According to Hicklin, CoStim is interested in progressing beyond cancer treatments to deliver therapies for other viral diseases, including hepatitis B and C, in which similar immune-suppressing mechanisms are at play. CoStim has already developed a portfolio of therapeutic antibodies that target key immune checkpoints and has built a platform to discover and develop the next generation of immune checkpoint therapies. “What we're trying to do,” Dr. Kuchroo states, “is modulate the immune response so that the immune system can be further activated, recognize the viral-infected cells, and then eliminate them.”