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Treadwell and TCRyption – Pushing Boundaries to Overcome Oncology’s Biggest Challenges

UHN incubated companies translate research into developing groundbreaking cancer treatments

Cancer kills an astonishing 10 million people every year. Battling the disease not only requires incredible amounts of scientific research, but also, the ability to turn critical research discoveries into commercially viable treatment options for cancer patients.

A team of researchers at the University Health Network's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has spent the past decade pursuing unexplored scientific areas and translating their findings into the development of best-in-class, safe and effective medicines through the establishment of two UHN spin-off companies – Treadwell Therapeutics and its subsidiary TCRyption.

Today, both thriving companies have research facilities in Toronto, in close proximity to the UHN life sciences hub – the largest health research network in Canada.  The city’s vast network of cancer research experts, Ontario’s open environment for innovation and collaboration, and annual R&D investments of $1.7 billion enable companies like Treadwell and TCRyption to successfully translate research into real-world clinical applications.

The Treadwell Story

Founded in 2019, Treadwell Therapeutics pushes the boundaries of therapeutic interventions for cancer that is difficult to treat by developing novel, first-in-class therapies concentrating on cell cycle regulation and immune-oncology.

Born in Toronto’s thriving life sciences innovation hub, Treadwell is a clinical stage, multi-modality company focused on advancing and commercializing the groundbreaking oncology research emerging from UHN’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Treadwell has three clinical stage small molecule programs and numerous preclinical small molecule and biologic programs currently in development.

The company was founded by a group of renowned researchers, including Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Dr. Tak Mak — a distinguished cancer research scientist, geneticist, oncologist and biochemist. Dr. Mak was the first to clone a key gene of the human T-cell receptor – a discovery with a critical role in cancer immunotherapy — and was the first to identify the tumour-destroying ability of the CTLA-4 immune checkpoint protein.

In 2021, Treadwell secured Series B financing of more than USD$91 million from new and existing investors, allowing the company to continue the clinical and pre-clinical development of its broad, multi-modality pipeline. In that same year, Treadwell established a 9,000-square-foot state-of-the-art laboratory facility in Toronto where it leverages robust internal discovery tools and capabilities to advance next-generation therapies for the most aggressive forms of cancer.  

In 2022, Treadwell and UHN expanded their partnership with licensing of pre-clinical biologic and small molecule assets discovered at UHN – with a focus on four novel oncology target programs, including a robust assay of pre-clinical therapeutic candidates.

Treadwell’s internally developed clinical pipeline includes Princess Margaret Cancer Centre discoveries: CFI-400945 (PLK4 inhibitor), CFI-402257 (TTK inhibitor), and CFI-402411 (HPK1 inhibitor); currently being investigated in multiple clinical trials for various cancers, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and acute myeloid leukemia. Treadwell also has a preclinical portfolio including novel T cell receptor-based cell therapy platform and novel antibody and small molecule programs.

The TCRyption Story

Emerging from the groundbreaking T-cell immunotherapy technologies created by Princess Margaret Hospital’s Senior Scientist Dr. Naoto Hirano, TCRyption was founded by Dr. Hirano and his fellow pioneers in the T-cell and cancer fields, Drs. Tak Mak and Mark Davis.

With core facilities in Toronto, the UHN spin-off biotechnology company aims to broaden treatment options for cancer patients – breaking barriers in the advancement of a branch of cancer immunotherapy known as T-cell receptor (TCR)-based adoptive cellular therapy. This unique therapy helps to stimulate the body’s own immune response to destroy cancer cells.

In 2020, the UHN TCR-based technology was licensed to TCRyption Inc. for further development, translation and potential larger-scale implementation.

Today, TCRyption’s T-cell receptor identification platforms and the resulting T-cell therapy clinical candidates are poised to expand treatment options for patients with cancers that are difficult to treat.

Following initial support from the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s Innovation Acceleration Fund to develop the technology, company creation activities were led by the team at UHN Commercialization as well as boutique venture creation firm TIO Bioventures which provided USD$10M in seed financing to accelerate TCRyption’s innovations toward patient impact.

TCRyption was fully acquired by Treadwell Therapeutics in 2021.