Neoantigens shared amongst patients and indications broaden the applicability of T cell-based cancer immunotherapies

Planegg/Martinsried – Prof. Dolores Schendel, Chief Executive and Chief Scientific Officer at Medigene AG (Medigene, FSE: MDG1, Prime Standard), a clinical stage immuno-oncology company focusing on the development of T cell immunotherapies, will today discuss how shared “dark matter” neoantigens offer a spectrum of targets for T cell-based cancer immunotherapies. Her talk entitled “Dark Matter Antigens: Exploration with Molecular and Cellular Tools” will be given at the Neoantigen Based Therapies Summit held virtually from 26 to 28 October 2021.

Cancer neoantigens for T cell-based immunotherapies

To avoid unwanted and dangerous side effects, T cell-based immunotherapies need to target and attack cancer cells only. That requires the identification of new, tumor-specific target antigens. Cancer antigens best suited for T cell therapies must be presented to the T cells on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules, must be immunogenic and thus induce an immune response (“antigens”), and ideally originate from novel changes (“neo”) in DNA that occur only in cancer cells but not in healthy tissue.

Examples for such novel DNA changes are, amongst others, cancer-specific mutations in gene-coding regions or transcription of non-coding DNA – the so-called “dark matter” of our genome.

Prof. Schendel: “There are three different types of cancer neoantigens: spontaneous mutations, shared mutations and “dark matter” transcripts.

Novel spontaneous mutations occur in almost all cancer cells in individual patients. Medigene’s T cell receptor-modified T (TCR-T) cells can target these personalized, patient-specific mutations very selectively. However, neoantigens shared amongst patients and/or disease types have a broader clinical appeal and stronger commercial potential. We have previously identified and characterized highly specific T cell receptors (TCRs) against shared mutations, with the BCR-ABL fusion protein a well-known example shared by some types of leukemia.

Most recently, with our partners at the University of Montréal, we have identified ten novel immunogenic “dark matter” neoantigens that are shared amongst patients and common to different tumor types such as ovarian, breast and lung cancer. We aim to use our in-house high-throughput automated screening platform to rapidly identify highly specific, best-in-class TCRs against shared “dark matter” neoantigens presented by different HLAs. These TCRs would then be combined with our enhancement technologies, such as the PD1-41BB switch receptor, to build a set of reagents that would greatly broaden the numbers of patients with diverse solid cancers that could be treated worldwide.”

— end of press release —

About Medigene

Medigene AG (FSE: MDG1, ISIN DE000A1X3W00, Prime Standard) is a publicly listed biotechnology company headquartered in Planegg/Martinsried near Munich, Germany. With its scientific expertise, Medigene is working on the development of innovative immunotherapies to enhance T cell activity against solid cancers in fields of high unmet medical need. Medigene’s pipeline includes preclinical as well as clinical programs in development.

Medigene’s strategy is to develop its own therapies towards clinical proof-of-concept. In addition, the Company offers selected partners the opportunity to discover and develop therapies on the basis of its proprietary technology platforms. In return for such partnerships, Medigene expects to receive upfront and milestone payments as well as research and development funding and royalties on future product sales.

For more information, please visit

About Medigene’s TCR-Ts

T cells are at the center of Medigene’s therapeutic approaches. With the aid of Medigene’s immunotherapies the patient’s own defense mechanisms are activated, and T cells harnessed in the battle against cancer. Medigene’s therapies arm the patient’s own T cells with tumor-specific T cell receptors (TCRs). The resulting TCR-Ts should thereby be able to detect and efficiently kill cancer cells.

This approach to immunotherapy aims to overcome the patient’s tolerance to cancer cells and tumor-induced immunosuppression by activating the patient’s T cells outside the body, genetically modifying them with tumor-specific TCRs and finally multiplying them. In this way, large numbers of specific T cells are made available to patients to fight the cancer within a short period of time.

About Medigene’s collaboration with the University of Montréal on “dark matter” tumor-specific antigens
In January 2020, Medigene entered into a research collaboration on novel cancer antigens for highly specific immunotherapies with the University of Montréal (UdeM) and IRICoR, a pan-Canadian drug discovery research commercialization center. UdeM’s research team, led by Drs. Claude Perreault and Pierre Thibault at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), provided Medigene with tumor-specific antigens (TSAs) stemming from non-coding regions of the DNA (“dark matter”) which they discovered using their proprietary platform, as novel targets for various cancer indications, particularly for solid tumors. Medigene received an option to exercise an exclusive and worldwide license to develop and commercialize T cell receptors (TCRs) against up to 5 of these novel dark matter cancer antigens.

This press release contains forward-looking statements representing the opinion of Medigene as of the date of this release. The actual results achieved by Medigene may differ significantly from the forward-looking statements made herein. Medigene is not bound to update any of these forward-looking statements. Medigene® is a registered trademark of Medigene AG. This trademark may be owned or licensed in select locations only.

Dr. Anna Niedl
Phone: +49 89 2000 3333 01

LifeSci Advisors
Sandya von der Weid
Phone: +41 78 680 05 38