Aduro’s three years of funding, with the potential for three more, will support work on some of today’s most promising techniques for stimulating the immune system to fight off cancer and infections. These may include investigating a new class of immune system stimulants called cyclic di-nucleotides, which have shown promise in shrinking tumors and bolstering vaccines against tuberculosis, and research that could help re-arm the immune system’s natural killer cells, which normally attack cancer cells and virus-infected cells, to better fight tumors.
“We’re increasingly finding that immune stimulants associated with disease-causing microbes work as cancer therapies, and conversely, that immunotherapies for cancer may have application in fighting infectious disease,” said IVRI director David Raulet, a professor and co-chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. “Bringing infectious disease and cancer researchers together in a synergistic research effort at UC Berkeley and Aduro Biotech is an exciting and unique idea, and could be where the next generation of therapies will come from.”
Aduro already uses some of UC Berkeley’s technology, including attenuated Listeria monocytogenes mutants and methods to engineer these bacteria to stimulate the immune system as vaccines for immunotherapy. This technology, pioneered by Dan Portnoy, a UC Berkeley professor who has joint appointments in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the infectious diseases and vaccinology division of the School of Public Health, has been further refined by Aduro scientists and is now being employed in Phase IIB clinical trials for vaccines against pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma.
“Through this unique collaboration, there is tremendous opportunity to improve our understanding of the immune system’s potential to serve as an important weapon in treating cancer and infectious disease,” said Stephen T. Isaacs, chairman, president and CEO of Aduro Biotech. “By combining UC Berkeley’s leading research and academic resources with innovative technology platforms, such as those developed by Aduro, we are confident that this initiative will lead to an improved understanding of, and potential treatments for, some of the most devastating diseases.”
The initiative was officially launched at an evening reception on March 24, the eve of aone-day symposium at UC Berkeley titled “Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer and Infectious Diseases.” The symposium was jointly sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases and Cancer Research Laboratory.