A meeting between an immunologist and an oncologist in a Singapore cafe seven years ago may go down as one pivotal moment in the war on cancer.
Over a coffee that turned into lunch, immunologist John Connolly and oncologist Han Chong Toh spent hours discussing ways to better harness the immune system to hunt down and kill malignant cells. Fast forward to April 2015, when cancer patients began receiving one of their experimental treatments in what their company says is the largest clinical study of its type in the world.
Their first meeting triggered a years-long partnership leading to Tessa Therapeutics Pte. Ltd., which is developing novel anti-cancer therapies that rely on turbo-charging the body’s cancer-killing immune system. The Singapore-based biotechnology firm has two treatments in patient studies, including one in the final of three stages of trials usually needed for regulatory approval. The company says it is also seeking about $100 million in extra funding later this year.
“While we are still in clinical trials for these treatments, based on the results we have seen so far, we are very excited by their potential to treat cancer,” said Toh, who is both Tessa’s chief medical officer and deputy director of Singapore’s National Cancer Centre.