A UK startup has unveiled one of the first generative AI-designed immunotherapy candidates, created to target a protein found in many cancers.
UK biotech startup Etcembly has used generative AI to design a novel cancer immunotherapy in record time. According to the company, its technology enables the rapid generation and optimization of T cell receptor (TCR) therapeutics that target tumor antigens.
Etcembly has developed an immunotherapy called ETC-101 using its EMLy AI platform. ETC-101 is a bispecific T cell engager targeting the tumor antigen PRAME, an antigen present in many cancers but absent in healthy tissue. Bispecific T cell engagers provide a link between T cells and tumor cells, causing T cells to exert cytotoxic activity on tumor cells by producing proteins that enter tumor cells and induce cell apoptosis.
ETC-101 was designed and optimized in just 11 months, compared to the more than two years typically required by conventional methods, according to Etcembly. Because this rapid timeline was achieved with the AI platform still in development, the startup expects future programs to be even faster.
Immunotherapy pioneer expects “game-changing acceleration” of TCR research
Etcembly’s AI engine, EMLy, uses large language models to predict, design, and validate candidate TCRs, scanning hundreds of millions of TCR sequences in the process. This speeds up initial design and should reduce the likelihood of later trial failures. Speaking of trials: Etcembly plans to advance ETC-101 and other programs into human clinical trials around 2025.
“Having headed up the development of TCR therapeutics for many years, it’s exciting to see a new platform with such power to deliver and engineer these therapies,” Bent Jakobsen, immunotherapy pioneer and Etcembly board member, said in a statement. “I believe TCRs have the potential to become a prominent drug class but it has been hampered by the difficulties involved with the huge complexities of the system.” He expects AI technologies like EMLy to “sweep aside these hurdles” and lead to a huge acceleration of the TCR field.
Founded in 2020, Etcembly is backed by institutional and private investors and is also part of Nvidia Inception, a program that supports AI startups.