The newest member of Bedford’s biomedical community is focused on therapies that can “deliver transformative outcomes for patients suffering from solid tumor malignancies.”
Obsidian Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, moved into almost 10,000 square feet of office and laboratory space in the One Patriots Park campus off Wiggins Avenue in December. When fully staffed, there will be about 30 staff members, mostly scientists and engineers.
Two of the firm’s top officials said this week that they are delighted with the new facility and its location. Nic Betts, who heads information technology and facilities, noted that Bedford is close to where employees reside – or aspire to live, once they start having families. And it’s an easy trip back and forth to Cambridge, he added.
Dr. Shyam Subramaniam, chief technology officer, added, “There is a nice ecosystem of companies here,” including nearby Hartwell Avenue in Lexington. “We created space here because we see the value in this community. We wanted to be part of the biotech.” Obsidian is also contiguous to the Minuteman Bikeway, he noted.
“Obsidian,” says the company’s website, “is a volcanic glass that is used to make sharp and precise blades. Reflecting our namesake, our approach enables precise, patient-specific engineering of cell and gene therapies.”
“Like the diversity of obsidian sources, we value the diversity and unique talents of our people,” the web text continues. “There’s a demand for talent” throughout the biomedical industry,” Subramaniam said. Betts agreed that “there’s a lot of competition” for highly-skilled candidates.
Obsidian Therapeutics is pioneering engineered tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapies to enhance anti-tumor activity in patients suffering from illnesses like metastatic melanoma and lung cancer.
The firm’s first potential product is anticipated to enter clinical development before the end of the year, according to the company, g research that began in the 1980s. “It’s a really exciting time for oncology therapies,” Subramaniam said. Scientists hope that the Food and Drug Administration approval is only a few years away.
Build out of the Bedford space, which began last spring, features highly specialized research and engineering laboratories with an array of technologies., The storage room alone contains units with temperatures as low as 80 degrees below zero Celsius.
Betts, who designed the space, said technology was adapted to allow for scientists’ remote work. During the pandemic, he said, “We did not lose momentum at all. We actually got stronger.” He said the town’s Code Enforcement Department was a helpful partner and the work was done on time and on budget.
The business, founded in 2015, creates engineered cell therapies. “The foundation is the ability to control protein stability, using small molecules for drugs that can be used in patients,” described Subramaniam. He explained that TIL therapy means extracting lymphocytes—a type of white blood cell—from tumors, and engineering them to increase potency, “to grow and persist,” and then return them, which “gives them a fighting chance.”
According to the Obsidian website, the clinical benefit of “conventional TIL therapy… has been limited due to efficacy challenges and toxicity concerns associated with required IL2 regimens. We are advancing a pipeline of novel, engineered cytoTIL therapies to overcome many of these challenges and deliver safer, more effective TIL therapies for more patients.”
Obsidian’s “engineered TIL product,” eliminates the need for IL2,” which is an immunotherapy drug and “a toxic and costly requirement for conventional TILs,” the website description says.
Eliminating IL2 is projected to expand patient eligibility by capturing patients who cannot tolerate or access IL2 administration,” according to the website. “We believe Obsidian is the only company pursuing this unique approach.”
Ultimately, “Cell manufacture is so key to what we do — taking the research process and making it suitable for manufacture,” said Subramaniam. Manufacturing is on the horizon, he added, although not initially at the Bedford site.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763