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Mini-Interview: Miguel Forte, CEO of Zelluna

Zelluna, a biopharmaceutical company founded in 2016, focuses on the development of T-Cell Receptor (TCR) based immunotherapies. The company has several TCRs in different stages of development.

Miguel Forte, CEO of Zelluna Immunotherapy

“We are developing cell therapies for solid tumors by genetically engineering the surface receptors of patient lymphocytes. We are also targeting cancer via the immune system, utilizing lymphocytes,” says Miguel Forte, CEO of the company.

Zelluna differentiates from the Nobel discoveries awarded last year in approach by aiming at delivering a large number of activated targeted lymphocytes against the tumor rather than interfering with the “lymphocyte brake” of the immune system.

“This autologous adoptive cell therapy approach consists of the collection of blood from cancer patients, modified ex-vivo with the introduction of a TCR specific for cancer proteins, and returning activated lymphocytes back to the patient in large numbers to destroy the tumor. The TCRs used by Zelluna have been developed by scientists at the Oslo Radium Hospital from patients who had a long-term survival benefit after immunization with cancer-relevant peptides,” explains Miguel Forte.

Clinical trials in 2020

He and his colleagues aim at starting clinical trials using the TCRs in autologous adoptive cell therapy in 2020.

“Currently we are completing the preparation of the data necessary to request the authorizations to conduct those trials, as well as organizing the manufacturing capability with partners to produce the genetically modified cells from the patients to target their own tumor,” he says.