A Vision for VISTA
Developing a new cancer immunotherapy is rarely a linear or simple path, but the reward of sticking with it is unmatched. I recently sat down with Sensei’s CSO, Edward van der Horst, to talk about our shared history working with a particularly promising and challenging therapeutic target: VISTA. It is the object of Sensei’s conditionally active antibody, SNS-101, which we hope to advance into the clinic in 2023.
In our conversation, Edward and I reflect on the many ‘firsts’ we and our colleagues achieved for the VISTA target. Our work together on VISTA pre-dates Sensei, and began at a time when immuno-oncology was in its infancy. When we first discovered VISTA expressed at high levels on acute myeloid leukemia cells, there were no approved checkpoint inhibitors; folks looking for I/O breakthroughs back then were focused on T cells, not the myeloid population. VISTA itself was so novel that most people still referred to it by the jumbled letters and numbers assigned to genes without a known function, c10orf54.
Our journey with VISTA was an uphill battle. Because of its ubiquitous expression on myeloid cells outside the tumor microenvironment, initial attempts to drug VISTA non-selectively resulted in poor PK and triggered cytokine release syndrome. With major publications yet to go to press, many of the people we approached for support remained unconvinced about its potential as an important immune checkpoint.
But we have remained steadfast in our commitment to overcoming the challenges VISTA presents. Largely thanks to Edward, Sensei now has an antibody, SNS-101, that has shown potential to block VISTA selectively in the tumor microenvironment while ignoring myeloid cells elsewhere in the body. We have submitted an IND to initiate a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of SNS-101, so that patients can potentially benefit from our expertise on VISTA. Helping patients has been our goal all these years, and it’s exciting to see that vision coming to fruition. I invite you to listen to our account of the journey that got us to this significant milestone.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Any statements contained in this article and interview that do not describe historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements may be identified by words and phrases such as “believe”, “designed to,” “expect”, “may”, “plan”, “potential”, “will”, and similar expressions, and are based on Sensei’s current beliefs and expectations. These forward-looking statements include expectations regarding the development of Sensei’s product candidates and platforms, including SNS-101; the potential safety profile of Sensei’s product candidates, including SNS-101; the potential benefits of Sensei’s product candidates, including SNS-101; and the expected timing of a clinical trial of SNS-101. These statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected in such statements. Risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially include uncertainties inherent in the development of therapeutic product candidates, such as the risk that any one or more of Sensei’s product candidates will not be successfully developed or commercialized; the risk of delay or cessation of any planned clinical trials of Sensei’s product candidates; the risk that prior results, such as signals of safety, activity or durability of effect, observed from preclinical studies will not be replicated or will not continue in ongoing or future studies or clinical trials involving Sensei’s product candidates; the risk that Sensei’s product candidates or procedures in connection with the administration thereof will not have the safety or efficacy profile that we anticipate; risks associated with Sensei’s dependence on third-party suppliers and manufacturers, including sole source suppliers, over which Sensei may not always have full control; risks regarding the accuracy of Sensei’s estimates of expenses, capital requirements and needs for additional financing; and other risks and uncertainties that are described in Sensei’s Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on March 29, 2023 and Sensei’s other Periodic Reports filed with the SEC. Any forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this content, and are based on information available to Sensei as of the date of this content, and Sensei assumes no obligation to, and does not intend to, update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.