Pheast Featured as One of Nature Biotechnology’s Top Academic Spinouts for 2023

November 15, 2023

Cancer cells evade phagocytosis from the innate immune response by using ‘don’t-eat-me’ signals, such as CD24, which was discovered as part of our cofounder, Amira Barkal’s dissertation research in Irv Weissman’s lab at Stanford. CD24 was found to be uniquely overexpressed in certain cancers, such as the ovarian and breast. 

Barkal told Nature Biotech: “It’s a whole new checkpoint in and of itself. It has different expression patterns and it’s a very potent macrophage checkpoint.” 

In addition, there’s the potential with macrophage checkpoint inhibitors to leverage innate as well as adaptive immunity in the tumor. 

Barkal explained, “When macrophages eat a cancer cell, as an antigen-presenting cell, they actually present a piece of the cell on its surface, which helps with T cell recruitment. An ideal therapeutic strategy would leverage both innate and adaptive arms of the immune system to maximize the immune response to cancer.”

Pheast is also looking beyond CD24 with its platform technology to identify novel macrophage checkpoints. Roy Maute, Pheast’s CSO added, “Our focus is on finding the right targets, the right drugs, and following the right development path.” 

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