Shares of clinical-stage immuno-oncology firm Neon Therapeutics Inc. (NTGN:NASDAQ) are trading up today on enormous relative volume after the company announced publication in the scientific journal Immunity of a breakthrough process for predicting which neoantigens will be presented by MHC class II molecules in the tumor microenvironment.
The company notes that predicting the relevant cancer-specific antigens is a crucial precursor to developing immunotherapies that effectively train T cells to traffic to the tumor and destroy malignant cells. In the paper titled "Defining HLA-II ligand processing and binding rules with mass spectrometry enhances cancer epitope prediction," Neon's proprietary mono-allelic profiling technology called MAPTAC facilitated the development of convolutional neural network-based predictors. These algorithms achieved up to a 61-fold improvement in predicting MHC class II peptides compared to publicly available tools.
The company advised that MHC class II prediction technology will be integrated into Neon's RECON bioinformatics platform and is expected to improve the efficacy of immunotherapies developed by Neon by predicting recruitment of CD4+ T cells, which are believed to be important in controlling tumor growth.
Richard Gaynor, M.D., Neon's president of research and development, commented, "The publication of this work represents an extensive research initiative to significantly improve the recruitment of CD4+ T cell responses. We believe this novel technology and prediction approach significantly advances the neoantigen field by setting a new benchmark for understanding the MHC class II pathway. These new insights may enable the development of improved immunotherapies, as well as therapies for other areas, including autoimmune disorders".
Associate Director, Proteomics at Neon and lead author of the paper Jennifer Abelin, Ph.D added, "Until recently, neoantigen-directed therapies have been focused primarily on eliciting CD8+ T cell responses toward ligands presented on MHC class I molecules. It has been historically difficult to predict the antigens that will be presented through class II due to inaccurate peptide binding prediction and unsolved complexities of the class II pathway. Through the research published today in Immunity, we have integrated novel proteomics and genomics strategies to build a more accurate tool for defining and understanding the rules of the class II pathway, leading to algorithms that have been shown to significantly outperform currently available prediction tools."
The company claims that the findings in the Immunity publication demonstrate that Neon's proprietary class II prediction algorithms substantially outperform NetMHCIIpan, the current benchmark for class II prediction. Key findings in the research include the development of novel proteomic strategies that resolve over 40 MHC class II motifs and the observation that intra-tumoral MHC class II presentation is dominated by professional antigen presenting cells (APCs) rather than tumor cells. Tracking which tumor epitopes are most readily phagocytosed and presented by APCs further enhances the ability to pinpoint therapeutically relevant epitopes.
Neon Therapeutics lists that its clear mission is "to build a breakthrough oncology company creating neoantigen-based therapeutics that significantly improve the lives of patients."The firm states that it is a leader in the field of neoantigen-targeted therapies, dedicated to transforming the treatment of cancer by directing the immune system towards neoantigens. The firm is using its neoantigen platform to develop both vaccine and T cell therapies, including NEO-PV-01, a clinical-stage neoantigen vaccine for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and bladder cancer; NEO-PTC-01, a neoantigen T cell therapy for the treatment of solid tumors; and NEO-SV-01, a neoantigen vaccine for the treatment of a subset of hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer.
Neon Therapeutics started today with a market capitalization of about $82.6 million. The company has 28.38 million shares outstanding and typically trades 145,000 to 195,000 shares per day. Today in early trading, volume has already exceeded 18 million shares. NTGN shares opened today at $3.58 (+$0.67, +23.02%) compared to yesterday's $2.91 closing price. The stock has traded today between $3.22 and $4.25/share and at present is trading at $3.36 (+$0.45, +15.46%).[NLINSERT]
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