Nanotechnology allowed us to “see” how a molecule, which is aberrantly expressed in cancers, works

The transmembrane protein MUC1 has been a target of interest to the pharmaceutical industry for the past 30 years because it is aberrantly expressed on over 75% of solid tumor cancers. To date, all therapeutics that were designed to inhibit the growth of MUC1 positive tumors have failed, when tested in humans.

At Minerva we developed a nanoparticle technology that allowed us to “see” in real-time how MUC1 is transformed from its usual quiescent state, to a powerful growth factor receptor that drives cancer growth and metastasis. We also used the same nanoparticle technology to screen small molecule libraries for anti-cancer activity against MUC1 positive cancers.

The key to treating solid tumor cancers is being able to develop agents that bind to the cancerous cells but not the normal cells. These nano-powered insights were critical to our development of antibodies that only recognize the tumor-associated form of MUC1. Because these antibodies can discriminate between normal MUC1 and cancerous MUC1, they can be incorporated into several different therapeutic modalities including CAR T, BiTEs, ADCs and bispecific antibodies for the treatment of cancer. Minerva’s first therapeutic to be tested in humans will be our CAR T aka cancer immunotherapy for solid tumors, which is scheduled to begin in Q3 2018 and will be performed with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.