By Jane Cook
August 27, 2021
On the same day that Pfizer received full FDA approval for its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech, the pharma giant made big strides in a different therapeutic arena: immuno-oncology. Pfizer acquired the immuno-oncology company Trillium Therapeutics for $2.3 billion, the value of the remaining shares that Pfizer did not already own.
Immuno-oncology has been at the forefront of the new immunotherapeutics movement, a line of research aimed at harnessing the body’s existing immune defenses against cancer cells, viruses, and other malignancies. Bioinformatic pipeline development has been a key player in identifying good targets for these new drugs.
Trillium Therapeutics’ target is a molecule called CD47 that tumor cells often use to evade the immune system. Often described as a “don’t eat me” signal, CD47 prevents macrophages from identifying, engulfing, and destroying tumor cells.
Trillium uses two “decoy” receptors, TTI-621 and TTI-622, to effectively neutralize CD47 and unmask the tumor cells to the macrophages that can destroy them. These particular receptors are currently being tested in blood cancers and some solid tumors.
Pfizer’s acquisition of Trillium shows the promise that immunotherapy holds for the future of medicine. Immuno-oncology has been especially useful as the more cell-specific types of therapy for cancer there are, the better physicians will be able to move away from chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Collaboration between pharma companies and genomic data analysis firms will be essential for identifying the best targets for new drug development. Bioinformatic tools can identify possible targets or drug molecules, while machine learning algorithms can select the most promising candidates. Advances in computational biology now allow for improved modeling of interactions between drugs and their target molecule or receptor, and candidate drugs can be screened and appropriately modified before ever being manufactured and tested.
As these workflows become better established, treatments in immuno-oncology will only improve, especially with backing from the resources of a company like Pfizer.
Jane Cook, Journalist & Content Writer, Bridge Informatics
Jane is a Content Writer at Bridge Informatics, a professional services firm that helps biotech customers implement advanced techniques in the management and analysis of genomic data. Bridge Informatics focuses on data mining, machine learning, and various bioinformatic techniques to discover biomarkers and companion diagnostics. If you’re interested in reaching out, please email [email protected] or [email protected].