Nature of Business
|3 Months Ended|
Sep. 30, 2023
|Nature of Business [Abstract]|
|Nature of Business||
1. Nature of Business
iBio, Inc. (the "Company") is a preclinical stage biotechnology company that leverages the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the development of precision antibodies. The Company’s proprietary technology stack is designed to minimize downstream development risks by employing AI-guided epitope-steering and monoclonal antibody (mAb) optimization.
In September 2022, the Company made a strategic pivot by acquiring substantially all of the assets of RubrYc Therapeutics, Inc. ("RubrYc"). This acquisition commenced the Company’s transition to an AI-enabled biotech company and led to the divestiture of its Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) business. This strategic decision allowed the Company to focus resources on the development of AI-powered precision antibodies, positioning iBio at the forefront of this exciting field.
One of the key features of the Company’s technology stack is the patented epitope-steering AI-engine. This advanced technology allows the Company to target specific regions of proteins with precision enabling the creation of antibodies highly specific to therapeutically relevant regions within large target proteins, potentially improving their efficacy and safety profile. Another integral part of the Company’s technology stack is the machine learning (ML) based antibody-optimizing StableHu™ technology. When coupled with the Company’s mammalian display technology, StableHu has been shown to accelerate the Lead Optimization process and potentially reduces downstream risks, making the overall development process faster, more efficient and cost-effective.
The Company also developed the EngageTx™ platform, which provides an optimized next-generation CD3 T-cell engager antibody panel. This panel is characterized by a wide spectrum of potencies, Non-Human Primate (NHP) cross-reactivity, enhanced humanness of the antibodies, and a maintained tumor cell killing capacity, all while reducing cytokine release. These attributes are meticulously designed to fine-tune the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the Company’s antibody products. By incorporating EngageTx into the Company’s own development initiatives, the Company’s internal pre-clinical pipeline reaps the benefits of the same cutting-edge technology extended to its potential partners.
The Company recently announced the expansion of its AI-powered technology stack with the launch of ShieldTx™, a patent-pending antibody masking technology designed to enable specific, highly targeted antibody delivery to diseased tissue without harming healthy tissue. By adding ShieldTx to the Company’s technology stack, iBio uniquely integrates antibody engineering and masking in one accelerated process to potentially overcome the challenges of complex targets, safety, and developability in next-generation antibody discovery and development.
iBio’s scientific team, composed of experienced AI/ML scientists and biopharmaceutical scientists, located side-by-side in its San Diego laboratory, possess the skills and capabilities to rapidly advance antibodies in house from concept to in vivo proof-of-concept (POC). This multidisciplinary expertise allows the Company to quickly translate scientific discoveries into potential therapeutic applications.
Artificial Intelligence in Antibody Discovery and Development
The potential of AI in antibody discovery is immense and is being increasingly recognized in the biopharmaceutical industry. The mAbs market has seen impressive growth in recent years, with mAbs increasingly the top-selling drugs in the United States. This success has driven the industry to seek innovative methods for refining and improving their antibody pipelines. AI and deep learning, which have already revolutionized small molecule drug design, are now making significant strides in the development and optimization of antibodies.
The Company is leveraging its AI-powered technology stack to enhance the success rate of identifying antibodies for challenging target proteins, expedite the process of antibody optimization, improve developability, and engineer finely calibrated bi-specifics. By continually refining the Company’s AI algorithms, incorporating new data sources, and developing robust experimental validation processes, iBio is paving the way for groundbreaking advancements in antibody design and drug discovery.
The Company is a pioneering biotechnology company at the intersection of AI and biologics, committed to reshaping the landscape of discovery. The Company’s core mission is to harness the potential of AI and machine learning to unveil elusive biologics that stand out and have evaded other scientists. Through the Company’s innovative platform, it champions a culture of innovation by identifying novel targets, forging strategic collaborations to enhance efficiency, diversify pipelines, with the goal of accelerating preclinical processes.
Additionally, the Company’s groundbreaking EngageTx™ technology enables the Company to target bi-specific molecules. With the ability to navigate sequence diversity and promote Human-Cyno cross reactivity while mitigating cytokine release, the Company’s goal is to enhance agility and bolster preclinical safety assessments.
The Company’s strategic approach to fulfilling its mission is outlined as follows:
In essence, the Company is sculpting a future where cutting-edge AI-driven biotechnology propels the discovery of intricate biologics, fostering partnerships, accelerating innovation, and propelling the advancement of science.
AI Drug Discovery Platform
The Company’s platform comprises five key components, each playing a crucial role in the discovery and optimization of precision antibodies.
The first layer, epitope engineering, leverages the patented AI-engine to target specific regions of proteins, allowing us to engineer antibodies with high specificity and efficacy. The second layer involves the proprietary antibody library, which is built on clinically validated frameworks and offers a rich diversity of human antibodies. The third layer of the technology stack is the antibody optimizing StableHu AI technology, coupled with mammalian display technology. Next, the Company uses its EngageTx T-cell engager platform to create bispecific antibodies. Finally, antibodies are transformed into conditionally activated antibodies by ShieldTx, the Company’s antibody masking technology. Each layer of the tech stack is designed to work synergistically, enabling us to rapidly advance antibodies from concept to in vivo proof-of-concept (POC).
The Company’s epitope steering technology is designed to address these issues by guiding antibodies exclusively against the desired regions of the target protein. By focusing on these specific regions, the Company can overcome the limitations of traditional methods and significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its antibody discovery process. The Company’s AI engine creates engineered epitopes, which are small embodiments of epitopes on the target protein. The engine is trained to match the epitope structure as closely as possible and refine the designs for greater stability and water solubility, which are critically important factors. The optimized engineered epitope is then used to identify antibodies from naïve or immunized libraries.
The fully human antibody library is built upon clinically validated, entirely human antibody frameworks. By leveraging public databases, the Company has extracted a diverse array of Complementarity-Determining Region (CDR) sequences. Subsequently, it has meticulously eliminated a range of sequence liabilities. Such careful curation process could potentially significantly reduce the development risk for antibodies identified from the Company’s library.
The Company’s proprietary StableHu technology is instrumental in the optimization process. StableHu is an AI-powered tool designed to predict a library of antibodies with fully human CDR variants based on an input antibody. This input can range from an early, unoptimized molecule to an approved drug. The model has been trained utilizing a set of over 1 billion human antibodies, progressively masking known amino acids within CDRs until the algorithm could predict the correct human sequence.
While phage display libraries are often used in antibody optimization due to their vast diversity, they can increase developability risks such as low expression, instability, or aggregation of antibodies. Mammalian display libraries, on the other hand, offer significantly improved developability but reduced diversity due to the smaller library size they can handle. StableHu overcomes this limitation by utilizing a machine learning algorithm generating focused library diversity within the capacity of mammalian display.
Mammalian display is a technology that presents antibodies on the surface of mammalian cells, allowing for the direct screening and selection of antibodies in a mammalian cell environment. This approach is advantageous as antibodies that express well on the mammalian cells used in the display are more likely to express well in the production cell line. Moreover, single-cell sorting of antibody-displaying cells allows rapid selection of desired antibodies based on multiple dimensions, such as potency, selectivity, and cross-species selectivity.
When paired with mammalian display technology, StableHu enables antibody optimization with fewer iterative optimization steps, lower immunogenicity risk, and improved developability.
The Company has used antibodies from an epitope steering campaign as well as a first-generation T-cell engager as input and utilized its StableHu technology to identify a next-generation CD3 antibody panel. The sequence diversity generated by StableHu led to an antibody panel with a wide range of potencies, which allows us to pair the panel with a wide variety of tumor-targeting antibodies. Importantly, we were able to retain T-cell activation and tumor cell killing capacity with significantly reduced cytokine release. This reduction is believed to lower the risk of cytokine release syndrome. Additionally, the increased humanness of the predicted antibodies, thanks to the Company’s StableHu technology, reduces the risk of immunogenicity.
Furthermore, the Company’s StableHu technology enabled it to engineer NHP cross-reactivity into EngageTx. This allows for advanced safety assessment in NHP ahead of clinical trials, providing another layer of safety assurance.
The Company has enhanced its proprietary technology with the introduction of ShieldTx, a patent pending innovative antibody masking technique. ShieldTx leverages the Company's engineered epitope technology, which is utilized not only for the identification of antibodies against complex drug targets but also for concealing the antibodies' active sites. A significant hurdle in therapeutic antibody development is the expression of drug target on both healthy and diseased tissues, leading to adverse
effects on non-targeted tissues. ShieldTx is designed to address this challenge by rendering antibodies inactive until they reach a specific environment unique to diseased tissues. Upon contact with this environment, the masking element is detached, activating the antibody. This strategy aims to minimize or eliminate unintended effects on healthy tissues, thereby improving the safety profile and reducing the immunogenicity risks associated with bispecific antibodies.
Epitope steering, a technology the Company is pioneering, has the potential to positively impact various areas of medicine. In the field of immuno-oncology, it can be used to develop antibodies targeting specific cancer antigens, potentially enhancing the efficacy of treatments like checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T therapies.
The technology also holds promise in the realm of systemic secreted and cell-surface therapeutics. Epitope steering can be applied to the development of antibodies, circulating immune modulation factors, secreted enzymes, and transmembrane proteins. This could be particularly beneficial in treating diseases such as heart failure, infectious diseases, and rare genetic conditions. In the context of localized regenerative therapeutics, epitope steering could potentially be used to develop treatments that target specific damaged or diseased tissues. This approach could be particularly beneficial in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Intratumoral immuno-oncology is another area where epitope steering could make a significant impact. It could potentially be used to develop treatments that alter the tumor microenvironment to favor an immune response against tumors, potentially enhancing the efficacy of treatments that use immune-stimulatory proteins. The potential of epitope steering extends to cancer vaccine development as well. The ability to target specific epitopes could be beneficial in the development of vaccines, particularly those that aim to increase the number and antitumor activity of a patient's T cells. Finally, epitope steering could be used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases, including those in the immune-oncology space, immunology, pain, and potentially in vaccine development. This is particularly relevant for complex and hard-to-drug protein structures.
The Company is currently in the process of building and advancing its pipeline. The focus of the Company’s pipeline is primarily on immuno-oncology, with one program also dedicated to the immunology space. By leveraging its technology stack, the pipeline is geared towards hard-to-drug targets and molecules offering differentiation. To mitigate target risk and capitalize on the learnings of competitors, the Company’s programs are primarily adopting a fast follower strategy. This approach allows the Company to focus on targets that have to some extent been validated and learn from the advancements of those ahead in the field.
In August 2021, the Company signed a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement with RubrYc to develop and commercialize RTX-003 (now referred to as IBIO-101), an anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody [mAb]. In September 2022, the Company acquired exclusive ownership rights to IBIO-101. IBIO-101 is a second-generation anti-CD25 mAb that has demonstrated in preclinical models of disease the ability to bind and deplete immunosuppressive regulatory T [Treg] cells to inhibit the growth of solid tumors.
Targeting depletion of Treg cells to control tumors emerged as an area of interest in oncology over the past several years. Since Treg cells express interleukin-2 Rα (“IL-2Rα” or “CD25”), it was envisioned mAbs could be developed that bind CD25 and thereby trigger depletion by Natural Killer cells, resulting in stimulation of anti-tumor immunity.
Unfortunately, while first-generation mAbs successfully bound CD25+ cells, they also interfered with interleukin-2 [IL-2] signaling to T effector [Teff] cells to activate their cancer cell killing effects. The result was a failure of first-gen anti-CD25 mAbs as cancer immunotherapies, since their favorable anti-Treg effects were negated by their unfavorable impact on Teff cells.
In a humanized mouse disease model, IBIO-101, when used as a monotherapy, effectively demonstrated its mechanism of action by significantly enhancing the Treg/Teff ratio, resulting in the suppression of tumor growth. When paired with an anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor in the same model, the combined treatment of IBIO-101 and anti-PD-1 exhibited superior tumor inhibition compared to either anti-PD-1 or IBIO-101 used independently.
The Company continues to advance its IL-2 sparing anti-CD25 antibody, IBIO-101, and anticipate moving the program from IND-enabling stage to an IND filing during the calendar year 2025.
TROP-2 x CD3 Bispecific
The Company has identified highly potent, fully human TROP-2 (Trophoblast Cell Surface Antigen 2) monoclonal antibodies, which have been formatted into bispecific TROP-2 x CD3 molecules using its T-cell engager antibody panel, EngageTx. TROP-2 is highly expressed in multiple solid tumors, including breast, lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers and is closely linked to metastasis and tumor growth. TROP-2 antibody drug conjugates have been developed to deliver toxic payloads to these cancer cells but could risk harming healthy cells and cause adverse effects. The Company’s bispecific approach has the potential to increase the therapeutic window, while promoting a robust and long-lasting anti-tumor response. Combining the bispecific TROP-2 approach with immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors can potentially lead to improved clinical outcomes.
Using EngageTx, the Company’s lead TROP-2 x CD3 bispecific antibody was engineered to potently kill tumor cells while limiting the release of cytokines, like Interferon Gamma (IFNg), Interleukin 2 (IL-2) and Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNFa), all of which have the potential to cause cytokine release syndrome. When compared to a bispecific molecule engineered with the Company’s TROP-2 binding arm and a first generation CD3 engager, SP34, its lead TROP-2 x CD3 bispecific antibody showed a markedly reduced cytokine release profile, potentially indicating a decreased risk for cytokine release syndrome.
When tested in a humanized mouse model of squamous cell carcinoma, the Company’s lead TROP-2 x CD3 bi-specific antibody demonstrated a significant 36 percent reduction in tumor size within just 14 days after tumor implantation, and after only a single dose.
MUC16 is a well-known cancer target often overexpressed in several types of solid tumors, including ovarian, lung, and pancreas cancers. Specifically, MUC16 is a large extracellular protein expressed on more than 80% of ovarian tumors. Tumor cells can evade immune attack by shedding or glycosylating MUC16, making it difficult for traditional antibody therapies to effectively target and destroy the cancer cells.
The Company’s patented epitope steering AI platform, its innovative approach to this challenge allows its new mAbs to bind to a specific region of MUC16 that is not shed or glycosylated, circumventing both tumor evasion mechanisms and potentially providing a powerful tool in the fight against cancer. During its immunization and screening campaign, we identified several hits that specifically bound to the non-shed region of MUC16 while no binding to the shed fragment of MUC16 was observed. During pre-clinical studies, The Company’s MUC16 molecule has demonstrated binding to MUC16 on OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cells. After engineering the leading MUC16 molecule with a fully human framework, the MUC16 molecule retained potent binding to the engineered epitope and maintained binding to human OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cells. The Company has utilized its EngageTx platform to engineer MUC16 x CD3 bispecific antibodies and has further optimized the molecules to be double-masked on the MUC16 and the CD3 binding arms of the antibody.
EGFRvIII is a specific variant of the EGFR protein, unique to tumor cells. Unlike the more common EGFR, EGFRvIII is not found in healthy cells, making it an attractive target for therapeutic interventions. This variant is most prominently associated with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer and head and neck cancer, but can also be present in certain cases of breast, lung, and ovarian cancers, among others. In the Company’s pursuit of innovative treatments, iBio is exploring antibody therapeutics that specifically target EGFRvIII, aiming to address these cancer types without affecting healthy cells.
Leveraging the Company’s patented AI-enabled epitope steering engine, it has specifically directed antibodies to target a unique epitope found exclusively on EGFRvIII, and not on the wildtype receptor, EGFR. Through this precision approach, iBio has designed tumor-specific molecules aimed at selectively targeting cancer cells while preserving healthy ones, potentially offering patients a more focused and safer therapeutic solution.
The Company’s hit molecules have demonstrated strong binding to the tumor-specific EGFRvIII protein without targeting the wildtype EGFR. Additionally, these molecules have effectively eliminated tumor cells, while sparing healthy ones, in in vitro cell killing tests. The Company’s lead anti-EGFRvIII antibody was specially engineered to enhance its ability to attack cancer cells and has proven effective in a mouse model for head and neck cancer. In preclinical studies, its anti-EGFRvIII antibody demonstrated a 43 percent reduction in tumor growth compared to untreated animals.
GPCRs are one of the most successful therapeutic target classes, with approximately one-third of all approved drugs targeting these proteins. Compared to small molecule-based GPCR drugs, antibody-based GPCR therapeutics potentially offer several potential advantages, including superior selectivity, extended mechanisms of action, and longer half-life. However, GPCRs are intricate, multi-membrane spanning receptors, making clinically relevant regions difficult to identify and target.
The chemokine receptor CCR8 is a GPCR which is predominantly expressed on Tregs, which play a role in suppressing immune responses. In the context of cancer, Tregs can inhibit the body's natural immune response against tumor cells, promoting cancer progression. Anti-CCR8 antibodies are being explored as a therapeutic strategy to deplete these Tregs in the tumor environment. By targeting and reducing Tregs using anti-CCR8 antibodies, the hope is to enhance the body's immune response against cancer cells, offering a promising avenue for cancer treatment.
Aiming directly at CCR8 is believed to be a safer approach because it focuses on specific suppressive Treg cells in the tumor environment without affecting other immune cells and functions. It's important to make sure antibodies are fine-tuned to CCR8 and don't mistakenly target a similar receptor, CCR4. This is because CCR4 is found in many immune cells, and accidentally targeting it could potentially lead to unwanted side effects.
Using the Company’s unique AI-driven technology, it has successfully identified molecules targeting CCR8, addressing some of the hurdles often faced when creating therapies that target GPCR with antibodies. The Company’s specialized anti-CCR8 antibody has shown strong attachment to cells expressing CCR8 and effectively disrupted the CCR8 signaling process, resulting in the efficient elimination of Tregs derived from primary human immune cells. Notably, the Company’s CCR8-focused molecule did not attach to cells overproducing CCR4, highlighting its precision in targeting only CCR8.
The Company’s CCR8 antibody has proven effective in a mouse model for colon cancer. Preclinical studies show its anti-CCR8 molecule inhibited tumor growth and achieved a 22 percent reduction in tumor size compared to its pre-treatment dimensions. We have specifically engineered the anti-CCR8 molecule as a high Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity (ADCC) antibody to enhance its ability to attack cancer cells.
Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is a pivotal player in the immune system, acting as a type of "off switch" that helps keep the cells from attacking other cells in the body. By agonizing or enhancing the signaling of PD-1, it's possible to temper the immune response, making it particularly valuable in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. In conditions where the immune system mistakenly wages war on the body's own cells, such as in autoimmune diabetes or lupus, therapies that target PD-1 can potentially reduce the severity of these autoimmune reactions. This approach offers a promising avenue for providing relief to patients suffering from these debilitating conditions. The figures below depict the mechanism of action of antagonistic and agonistic PD-1 antibodies.
iBio purchased the global rights to a partnership-ready PD-1 agonistic mAb intended to treat serious autoimmune disorders. While the goal in immuno-oncology is to remove immune tolerance towards cancer cells, in autoimmune diseases the opposite is the case, because autoimmune diseases can result from deficits in peripheral and/or central tolerance mechanisms which presents an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. Specifically, agonism or stimulation of inhibitory receptors like PD-1 or CTLA4, which mediate peripheral tolerance is a promising approach to treat autoimmune diseases. Unlike PD-1 antagonists used in immuno-oncology, PD-1 agonists are difficult to find. RubrYc used its AI Discovery Platform to discover PD-1. PD-1 is currently in the late-discovery stage, having undergone extensive screening and in vitro characterization, and we anticipate it will be advanced into in vivo models as IBIO-102, in the near future.
In preclinical studies, the Company’s PD-1 agonists have been evaluated using a primary T-cell assay. Its top-performing molecules showed a significant decrease in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-2 and reduced expression of the T-cell activation marker CD96. Both of these outcomes are indicative of the desired dampening of T-cell activation.
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Reference 1: http://www.xbrl.org/2003/role/disclosureRef