"Unum Therapeutics has been advancing rapidly. Two years ago, Unum had one bench in an incubator lab. Now, it has a 33,000 square foot state-of-the-art laboratory, with 50 employees, and the company is initiating its first clinical trial of ACTR in the U.S."
- Professor Dario Campana, Department of Paediatrics, NUS
NUS spin-off company Unum Therapeutics is developing a universal cell therapy designed to attack many types of cancers, such as lymphoma and neuroblastoma. The company was co-founded in 2014 by Professor Dario Campana (NUS Department of Paediatrics) and Dr Charles Wilson, the company's CEO and President, who was formerly at Novartis. Unum Therapeutics is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Prof Campana, who is based in Singapore, chairs Unum's Scientific Advisory Board.
Unum's proprietary antibody-coupled T-cell receptor (ACTR) is a chimeric protein that binds to tumour-targeting antibodies. Patients' T-cells (white blood cells that make up the immune system) are extracted, processed and genetically programmed with ACTR. When the ACTR T-cells are put back into a patient, they can be targeted to attack tumours by co-administering cancer-specific antibodies. The NUS Industry Liaison Office filed a patent to protect this technology, liaising with St Jude Children's Hospital, where Prof Campana began his research.
Although Unum is a young biotech start-up, it is already making headlines around the world. It was nominated as one of the top academic spin-off companies of 2014 by the prestigious journal Nature Biotechnology and one of the Fierce15 of 2015 by FierceBiotech. It has also raised a US$12 million Series A in 2014, a US$65 million Series B in 2015, and established a strategic collaboration with Seattle Genetics to co-develop and co-commercialise therapies.