TxCell, a biotechnology company developing innovative, personalized cellular immunotherapies using regulatory T cells (Treg) to treat severe chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, has appointed Li Zhou, Ph.D., vice president, Cell Engineering. Dr. Zhou brings extensive pharmaceutical experience in antibody engineering and T-cell engineering to strengthen and accelerate the development of TxCell’s ENTrIA CAR-Treg platform.
In his new role, Dr. Zhou will lead TxCell’s Cell Engineering team within the research department. In particular, he will lead the discovery and engineering activities on Chimeric Antigen Receptor in Treg cells (CAR-Treg) for immunotherapy of severe chronic autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as well as organ transplantation.
“With this key appointment, TxCell is demonstrating its commitment to be at the forefront of cellular immunotherapy,” said François Meyer, head of Research of TxCell. “Cell engineering significantly broadens the potential therapeutic applications of TxCell’s technology and we have recently intensified the research efforts on our ENTrIA CAR-Treg platform. Li brings a wealth of technical and strategic expertise in T-cell engineering, which will be of great value to TxCell as we develop novel and next-generation Treg-based therapies.”
“This is a very exciting time to be joining TxCell,” said Dr. Li Zhou, vice president, Cell Engineering, at TxCell. “TxCell has strong Treg expertise as well as great partnerships with world-leading scientists. What we are doing here with CAR-Tregs to treat autoimmune diseases and transplantation-related disorders is truly unique. Everything is in place to rapidly build a solid cell engineering capacity and deliver on the company’s goals.”
Over the past few months, TxCell has intensified research on its second technology platform, ENTrIA, composed of engineered regulatory T cells (CAR-Treg). TxCell is focusing on four or five CAR-Treg programs, notably targeting lupus nephritis, bullous pemphigoid, multiple sclerosis and transplantation. TxCell’s objectives are to generate several additional preclinical proof-of-concept data within the next 12 months and to start at least one first-in-man clinical study before the end of 2018. A number of these programs are being developed through collaboration agreements with leading academic laboratories, including Ospedale San Raffaele (OSR) and the Lübeck Institute of Experimental Dermatology (LIED).
Dr. Li Zhou has over 20 years of experience in drug discovery gained in pharma or biotech companies as well as in academic labs. Prior to joining TxCell, he was chief scientific officer, director of R&D at ZMKS International Cancer Therapy Biotechnologies, a Chinese immuno-oncology company. He was previously lab head, investigator at the Novartis Biologics Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 2009 to 2016. In this role, he led the discovery and engineering efforts on CAR-T cells for cancer immunotherapy, with top candidates now in clinical trials. He also led the development of next-generation CAR-Ts, including regulatable (or inducible) CAR-Ts, which have achieved in vivo proof-of-concept.
Prior to joining Novartis, Li was team leader, Center for Computational and Integrated Biology, at the Massachusetts General Hospital from 2002 to 2009. His previous roles include research positions at Cereon Genomics, Monsanto Company and at the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School.