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The Silicon Review Asia

Tessa Therapeutics Ltd – Designing next-generation cancer treatments

The Silicon Review
November, 2019


"Our vision is to cure cancer and save lives with our innovative and widely accessible immunotherapies."

Cancer is a deadly disease which is caused due to uncontrolled growth of the cells and forms from the extra mass tissue known as a tumor. In the past, just saying the word, "cancer" usually meant a death sentence. That assumption could not be more wrong with the medical technology of today. New cancer treatment options, coupled with early detection, have strongly diminished the number of deaths from a cancer diagnosis.

One such firm which is revolutionizing the field of oncology by inventing new treatments for cancer is Tessa Therapeutics Ltd.

Tessa Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with the scientific vision of revolutionizing the treatment of cancer by redirecting the body's potent anti-viral immune response to recognize and kill cancer cells. Tessa's core virus-specific T cell (VST) platform has shown compelling results in the treatment of solid tumors, and the company is building a portfolio of therapies addressing a wide range of tumors by combining the qualities of its T cell platform with complementary technologies.

Tessa's lead Phase III trial for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is the world's most significant Phase III T cell immunotherapy trial for any cancer indication. The company has built up robust operational and supply chain capabilities to successfully deliver autologous T cell therapy treatments to a large patient pool across five countries. The combination of technologies from its academic, clinical, and commercial research partners has enabled the company to create a fully-integrated approach to the treatment of cancer with immunotherapy.

Tessa's Approach

The company employs its understanding of the body's anti-viral immune response to design the next generation of cancer treatments rationally. Their core technology redirects the innate and adaptive arms of anti-viral immunity to create a sustained anti-cancer immune response.

Platform Technology offered by Tessa Therapeutics

The company's core Virus-Specific T cells (VSTs)platform shows promising efficacy and proven safety in multiple solid tumor and hematologic neoplasms. These VSTs are highly specialized T cells that are explicitly produced by the immune system when there is a viral infection. These cells can recognize and kill infected cells while activating other parts of the immune system for a coordinated response. VSTs persist in the body and enable a rapid immune response if the virus is reencountered.

Properties of VSTs

The VSTs have shown compelling clinical results across multiple Tessa and academic clinical trials with strong evidence in:

Clinical Benefit

The Virus-Specific T cells show complete and partial responses observed in several solid tumor indications, including advanced nasopharyngeal cancer, cervical cancer, and neuroblastoma.

Safety Profile

VSTs as a single agent, with specific genetic modifications (including CARs), or as allogeneic therapy – with includes no cytokine release syndrome (CRS), or central nervous system (CNS) have considerably shown less toxicity when compared to other treatments.


The VSTs are used to treat cervical cancer, and significant results have been observed.

Factors that make the firm's VST platform widely applicable

The solid safety profile of VSTs enables the company's platform to be combined with a wide range of next-generation therapies, broadening the cancer range, and enhancing the scalability of their treatments.

VSTs & Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR), which is otherwise receptors known as the genetically engineered receptors that produce artificial T cells, can combine with VSTs, which provides safety, durability, and persistence of VSTs with antigen specificity of a CAR.  Tessa has CAR targets in the development and late pre-clinical stage.

VSTs &Oncolytic Viruses

Oncolytic viruses selectively replicate and destroy cancer cells. Combining VSTs with oncolytic viruses boosts the innate and adaptive immune response against the tumor.

Allogeneic Therapy Using Tessa's VST Platform

Allogeneic VSTs are generated from healthy donor's cells to provide an off-the-shelf treatment option to patients. Due to the viral specificity of their TCRs, VSTs do not require TCR or HLA gene editing to ensure a low risk of graft-versus-host disease.

Therapeutic products furnished by Tessa

TT10 EBVSTs (Phase III)

Epstein-Barr Virus-Specific T Cells (EBVSTs) for Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC): The firm uses proprietary Virus-Specific T cell (VST) platform, which enables them able to target specific Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) proteins that are present on EBV-positive tumors. The EBVSTs extracted from the patient's blood are enhanced for anti-tumor potency, selectively activated, and expanded ex vivo before they are infused back into the patients.


Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) is overexpressed in multiple solid tumors, including breast cancer, bladder cancer, lung, colorectal, gastric carcinoma, and head and neck. The overexpression of HER2 is an indicator of poor prognosis, increased recurrence, and decreased OS. Our therapy is a two-way process; firstly, the adenoviruses are administered locally into the tumor, followed by infusion of HER2-CAR Ts, which targets and kills explicitly HER2 expressing tumor cells.


Multi CAR VSTs for Pediatric Gliomas: Tessa, in collaboration with St Jude, is developing a novel CAR approach targeting multiple tumor antigens expressed in pediatric gliomas. The multi-CAR VSTs will help address the problem of resistance through antigen loss, a common escape strategy for glioma.

The penultimate leader behind the genesis of Tessa Therapeutics Ltd

Andrew Khoo is the Co-Founder and also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Tessa Therapeutics Ltd. He co-founded Tessa, along with Dr. Malcolm Brenner and Mr. Francis Chua, and has been the CEO of Tessa since. An active investor in healthcare and technology-focused start-ups, Mr. Khoo, is also a Director of other leading biotechnology companies such as Vyriad and Enleofen Bio. Before founding Tessa, He has worked in various roles at global banks, including JP Morgan and Citigroup. He began his career at the Singapore Economic Development Board. Mr. Khoo holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Stanford University.

"We pioneer innovative cell immunotherapies intending to give cancer patients a new lease of life.”


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