November 3, 2019
The Technology and Commercialization (TDC) office is thrilled to recognize Dr. Naoto Hirano, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, as the winner of UHN's 17th annual Inventor of the Year Award.
Dr. Naoto Hirano receives the 2019 award for his work in developing theTCR-HLA multimer staining technique, which greatly expands how immunotherapy targets cancer, allowing more people to benefit from the treatment.
The TCR-HLA multimer staining technology is part of a branch of cancer immunotherapy known as T-cell receptor-based adoptive cellular therapy, which helps to stimulate the body's own immune response to destroy cancer cells.
The approach Dr. Hirano devised overcomes current immunotherapy targeting limitations that arise from using only a few types of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) during immunotherapy. HLAs are responsible for presenting antigenic peptides to the body in order to stimulate an immune response. The types of HLAs currently available are only found in a small subset of people and ethnic groups. Furthermore, only a select number of peptides, which are present in a fraction of the cancer cells, are used.
TCR-HLA multimer staining enables a wide variety of different types of HLAs and peptides to be used to target cancer. These can be customized to individual patients, greatly expanding the effectiveness and applicability of immunotherapies.
Dr. Hirano is also the scientific co-founder of TCRyption Inc., a UHN spin-off company that was recently launched to help advance T-cell immunotherapy using this groundbreaking technology. TCRyption Inc.'s commercialization efforts were led by UHN's TDC securing an initial $10 million in seed financing to advance the innovation towards helping patients.
"We are thrilled to recognize the world-class science, collaboration and commercialization that Dr. Naoto Hirano exemplifies," says Brad Wouters, UHN's Executive Vice President of Science and Research.
"It is exciting to see another UHN and Toronto ecosystem technology making bold strides towards improving health by including a broader spectrum of patients in need."
Congratulations, Dr. Hirano!