Himanshu Brahmbhatt, co-CEO of EnGeneIC, a biopharma company, talks about the company’s development of a first-in-class cyto-immunotherapy platform for targeted delivery of chemotherapeutics directly into tumors but limits harm to any healthy cells.
Dr. Himanshu Brahmbhatt co-founded EnGeneIC in 2001 with Dr. Jennifer MacDiarmid and took the company from a concept to now in clinical trials and the first end-stage mesothelioma patient in complete remission. Along the journey, they raised all the venture capital and private investor funds for the business operations, R and D, building a small-scale manufacturing plant and the three multi-center Phase I clinical trials with different EDV therapeutics in different end-stage cancers. They are also the sole inventors of EnGeneIC’s over 260 granted patents world-wide. Formerly Dr. Brahmbhatt was a Principal Research Scientist at the CSIRO. He has also undertaken post-doctoral research at the Geneva Medical Centre and the National Centre for Research and Biotechnology in Germany.
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health
Professional Radio and I’m real glad that you could join us once again. Our guest is Mr. Himanshu Brahmbhatt, he is the co-CEO of EnGeneIC, it’s a biopharma company and he’s joining us on the program today to talk about the company’s development of a first in class Cyto-Immunotherapy platform that’s targeted for delivery of chemotherapeutics directly into tumors but I’ll let Himanshu tell us all about himself briefly and all about his company’s development of this groundbreaking technology. Thanks for joining us on the program.
Dr. Himanshu Brahmbhatt: Thank you very much Neal for this opportunity. So EnGeneIC as you mentioned is a clinical stage pharmaceutical company based in Sydney and we also have a US subsidiary with an office in New York mainly to carry out the clinical trials in the United States. Along with Dr. Jennifer MacDiarmid who is a joint-CEO of EnGeneIC, we are the solid mentors of his entire edv EDV™ technology with now almost over 410 patents granted worldwide and that the company is currently aiming to list on Nasdaq over the next year or two. Essentially what we discovered was bacteria can produce little nano cells and this is just a random event that occurs in nature and when we engineered these bacteria, what we could do is in the manufacturing, we could actually reliably produce these little nano cells and non-living nano-cells and they could be produced in very large numbers in the laboratory and in manufacturing. Now we then discovered that you can actually load these nano cells with chemotherapy drugs and these drugs do not leak out of these nano cells and since they’re made from bacteria on the surface of these nano cells you have little carbohydrate structures so we can attach by specific antibodies where one arm of the antibody can link onto the EDV™ surface and the other arm can be targeted towards a cancer cell, the surface receptor. Now when we inject this three component system which is antibody targeted and drug loaded nano cell into the blood system of a cancer patient, these particles are 400 nanometers in size so they are too large to get out of the normal blood circulation so they are retained in the blood circulation but it has been known for a long time that wherever there is a tumor growing the blood vessels are highly defective and very leaky. So these particles rapidly drop out into the tumor environment and then because they are the targeting antibody, they lock onto the tumor cell surface and the cancer cell automatically follows. It’s like a Trojan horse, it swallows the EDV™ particle, we call this EnGeneIC Dream Vector, it swallows the nano cells, destroys the nano cell and the drug payload is delivered directly inside the cancer cell. So in our patients with almost a thousand doses now delivered in patients, we have seen hardly any toxicity. It goes straight into the cancer cells and knocks them off.
Neal: So none of the healthy cells that are surrounding that tumor are affected due to leakage that was previously present in other types of or similar attempts at this method of delivery?
Dr Brahmbhatt: So the previous methods that people have used like synthetic nanoparticles, unfortunately synthetic nanoparticles tend to leak the drug payload so therefore the drug still gets out into the normal tissue and they still experience toxicity. And the other thing is that all these synthetic nanoparticles are too tiny, so they actually can also get out of the normal blood vessel system. Our particle is too big, it’s like a giant football and it just gets retained in the blood vessel system and just doesn’t see normal cells and so this is the big difference so essentially size does matter.
Neal: What types of tumors is this new technology effective on? Is it all types of cancers across the board or specific types?
Dr Brahmbhatt: So most solid tumors and we have now, that’s why a clinical trial depend a very unique. When our clinical trials are done people “Okay I’m doing a clinical trials in pancreatic cancer or brain cancer.” We have all comers because this nano cell can carry a highly toxic payload and wherever there’s leaky blood vessels surrounding a tumor, it will get in there and it knocks off those tumor cells so we’ve seen dramatic anti-tumor efficacy results in brain cancer in the United States, also in pancreatic cancer, in bladder cancer, in mesothelioma, in lung cancer and these are all end-stage cancers where patients have run out of treatment options. So it’s going to a lot of different cancers.
Neal: What type of extra longevity are patients seeing after this treatment?
Dr Brahmbhatt: In the case of mesothelioma we saw median overall survival in 27 patients jumped up to 41 weeks and that was the last follow-up. Now normally at the end stage when these patients are on oxygen, the lungs are filling up with liquid they’re, being drained constantly, these patients normally would so have four to six weeks and instead ours jumped up to 41 weeks at last follow-up. In lung cancer we have seen patients live an extra two years. In New York where we’ve got this dramatic result in a brain cancer patient, normally again six weeks would be maximum at that stage and yet this patient is still alive up to two years and completely stable so we’re seeing you see once if the tumor gets into remission, the longevity can be dramatically enhanced, people can go on. Minimum what we are seeing is stable disease with prolonged overall survival and minimal to no toxicity.
Neal: Now I understand that you say you’ve have over 200 granted patents worldwide. You’ve also developed a second-generation EDV™ as well. How is it different from the one that we’ve been talking about in our conversation thus far?
Dr Brahmbhatt: Yeah, so in the first generation EDV™ we were only packaging conventional chemotherapy drugs into the EDV™ and targeting the EDV™ using this antibody on the surface and when we saw this dramatic anti-tumor responses along with the co-founder Jennifer and myself, work with a … okay one patient out of you know ten, did dramatically well and the others got okay stable disease, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if nine out of ten patients did very well? So we tried to analyze what was so different where a patient derived traumatic anti-tumor response compared to others who had who got just stable disease and what we observed was truly remarkable that in those patients where you saw a dramatic result the patient’s immune system had kicked in. It was not just about killing cancer cells. If you wake up the immune system in these cancer patients that immune system is so powerful it can which will wipe out most of the tumor so then we thought okay how can we actually do this more reliably in most of the patients. So what we found is that we could actually take another EDV™ particle, another nano cell and package it with the immune stimulating molecules. Now we combine the two EDV™together, two nano-cells one carrying the drug and targeted azuma to kill cancer cells and the other EDV™ is an immune stimulator and when you combine these two together and you inject it simultaneously into a cancer patient, both EDV™ go and do a different job. One is to kill cancer cells directly and the other one to wake up the immune system and this is what we are now takingm calling the second-generation EDV™ and that’s what’s going with these phase 2 trial in several cancers.
Neal: How accessible is this technology going to be in the end stages as far as cost of goods? In wrapping up let’s talk about what you see as the future of these EDV™ as far as the cost?
Dr Brahmbhatt: Sure. It is very interesting question because most people are now aware that these new cancer therapies that are coming out from major pharmaceutical companies, they can cost anywhere from a hundred thousand dollars to eight hundred thousand dollars per patient for a year. Now this is the tremendous burden on healthcare reimbursement agencies and affordable only to the most affluent countries made let’s just say poorer countries people just cannot afford this kind of treatment. The great advantage of this EDV™ therapeutic is that the cost of manufacturing is remarkably low to the extent that at the moment when we manufacture these EDV™ and we then send it up to the hospital a patient those costs only $200 to make. So you can imagine that what we want to do is that make it affordable worldwide. It shouldn’t be a drain on reimbursement agencies and let’s take the greed out of all this kind of stuff. This is about people’s life and suffering and we have to do something and so this is the one of the great advantages of this technology that since its bacterial in origin you can just manufacture it very cheaply.
Neal: Where can our listeners go online and get some more information about your company EnGeneIC and also about your EDV™, your EnGeneIC Dream Vector?
Dr Brahmbhatt: Thank you so on the website, most of the details are there.
Neal: And the name of the website?
Dr Brahmbhatt: So www.engeneic.com
Neal: Himanshu, thank you so much for joining us on Health Professional Radio, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Dr Brahmbhatt: Thank you very much Neal.
Neal: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au and be sure and visit our Affiliate Page when you visit our platform you can also listen in and download at SoundCloud.