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October 30, 2017 Issue



Q&A with Russell Lamontagne, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics, Inc developing Monoclonal Antibodies targeting TNFR2 expressed in the Human Immune System in Infectious Diseases and as a Surface Oncogene in certain types of Cancers



Russell Lamontagne

Co-Founder, President & CEO


Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics, Inc.


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published October 29, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. Lamontagne, what is the concept for Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics, Inc.?

Mr. Lamontagne: We are developing monoclonal antibodies to a target called TNFR2 (tumor necrosis factor receptor 2), which is expressed on elements of the human immune system and as a surface oncogene in certain types of cancers. Our technology was licensed out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, from the laboratory of our co-founder, Dr. Denise Faustman, M.D., Ph.D., who is head of the Immunobiology lab of Massachusetts General Hospital. The concept is that the antibodies that we are developing target a type of T-Cells called T-Regs, which essentially is a way in which the body regulates immune response. Immune response is important in cancer because for some time we wondered as a scientific community why the body does not naturally attack cancer cells, and it appears that cancer cells have a way of convincing the immune system not to. The body also tends to dampen an over aggressive immune response. Therefore, the T-Regs play a part in this whole immune response and we think based upon early research that it is possible that by taking down or lowering the population of T-Regs that happen in the tumor micro-environment, we can enhance the efficacy of cancer therapies and in some cancers be a viable stand alone therapy.


CEOCFO: What will happen inside the cell and the body with what you have developed?

Mr. Lamontagne: We are still in the pre-clinical phase but the concept is that our antibodies could work in two ways. They could the immune system launch its own attack against the tumor.  Alos it appears that in certain cancers the target that we are going after, TNFR2, is expressed on the surface of cancer cells. In those cancers including ovarian and colon, we can have show in-vitro that we can directly kill those cancer cells. Our direct killing mechanism is similar to Herceptin (trastuzumab), which targets HER2. Herceptin is a $6 billion a year drug that has been around for many years. Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that targets 32% of breast cancers and we believe we will be expressed on many more cancers, but it is still early.


CEOCFO: Why are you confident what you have developed will work?

Mr. Lamontagne: It is based on a technology that our co-founder has been working on for almost 20 years. Our current research has been going on now for several years and we have some early in-vitro mouse data in our labs and other labs that shows this target might be highly valuable. Therefore, we are optimistic, but you have to do the studies first.


CEOCFO: It is unusual that is might work on a variety of cancers?

Mr. Lamontagne: There are many drugs that target multiple cancer types, and the nice this about a drug that targets the human immune response is that it would sort of work across all cancer types. However, cancer is complex so we do not want to speculate too much.


CEOCFO: Are you working on infectious disease as well or is that something for the future?

Mr. Lamontagne: We are working on infectious disease. Infectious disease is interesting because in an infectious disease like cancer the immune system tries to dampen what it sees as a over response. Therefore, the thought is that if you took down the population of T-Regs that we target, then you would get a more robust immune response. This is different from antibiotics, which are specific to species of bacteria, whereas this is something that would work on all types of bacteria and infecqqmAqHqq>qxt" style="text-align: justify; margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0">  

CEOCFO: Where are you today and what might you be doing 6 months from now?

Mr. Lamontagne: Right now we are moving our lead candidate through the humanization process and conducting IND enabling studies. We are also discussing potential partnerships with partners to either invest in that process with us or partner to take over some of the role. This is very standard path forward for early stage biotechs.


CEOCFO: You have been involved with biotech and early stage companies for a long time. What do you understand about the process of going from concept to bringing a drug through clinical trials?

Mr. Lamontagne: The thing about biotech that differentiates it from other sectors is that there is a great deal of science and steps that goes into regulatory hurdles. If you are investing in a tech startup that is hot today, you can do a very quick turnaround in an unregulated business that does not require long periods of scientific research, regulatory steps or long periods of clinical trials. Phase 2 and 3 could take years, so you are challenged with how to keep funding for the company during this time. That has always been the struggle for biotech companies and will continue to be, but we are seeing tremendous valuations on the backside of getting over these hurdles so a biotech companies still have an opportunity to build strong investor and partner relationships early, so investors can understand these timelines and are able to make decisions.


CEOCFO: How do you stand out among the many companies that are doing research in oncology or in infectious disease?

Mr. Lamontagne: We have been very focused on a particular target and the company is based on the idea that the TNFR2 is a viable target. Therefore, we took the time not just to develop the antibodies for that target, but to make sure we own the target as well. For us, we were not starting a cancer company to go after cancer, we were starting a TNFR2 company that is focused on cancer. Our focus is owning the epitope and the IP around the epitope


CEOCFO: How are you garnering attention from the scientific as well as the investment communities?

Mr. Lamontagne: We have been in direct communication with investors, but also our CSO has published pivotal papers and has given some high profile presentations. I have had the opportunity to speak at three conferences in the past year. This all helps in getting the word out. In addition, our board has been very supportive of introductions to investors that have helped with the process.


CEOCFO: Do you feel that the concept is fairly easy to understand?

Mr. Lamontagne: In the broad sense it has been easy to tell the story because immune-oncology has been so prominent in the news. This gives us a nice touch points that we can referencelike the approved immunotherapies that are being talked about in commercials on TV and used in treating a prominent figure such as former president Jimmy Carter. They average person at Starbucks might not be able to talk about a PD1 or a Check-Point Inhibitor, but you can have a broad conversation about cancer and what we are doing because the idea is so interesting and so elegant, turning the immune system on to fight cancers. Therefore, people are really engaged with the idea, so it is a bit easier in that sense to tell the story and that has been helpful.


CEOCFO: You mentioned investors and partnerships. Would you tell us where you are with funding?

Mr. Lamontagne: We are either going to find a partner that will move forward with us to the clinic or find an investor to take us to the next step. However, we have people that are interested in both and we will deepen those conversations as we go forward.


CEOCFO: What has surprised you since founding Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics?

Mr. Lamontagne: What has surprised me is how far out the partners and investor look when they approach these problems. People have this image of companies throwing money at these projects, but it really does take a great deal of work. The level of diligence that is done is very impressive when you go to a well credited investor or partner. They do their homework. They really work hard.


CEOCFO: Put it all together. Why pay attention to Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics?

Mr. Lamontagne: We got in early and focused on owning a valuable target, and now the scientific and pharmaceutical community is catching up with us. In the last couple of years we have seen more and more papers where people are working on our target. Therefore, we benefit from doing hard work to be in the right position at the right time.


We are developing monoclonal antibodies to a target called TNFR2 (tumor necrosis factor receptor 2), which is expressed on elements of the human immune system and as a surface oncogene in certain types of cancers.
- Russell Lamontagne


Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics, Inc.







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