South Carolina precision oncology company Kiyatec is developing an industry-disrupting technology that can pinpoint which existing cancer drugs are most likely to work for patients, creating the potential to dramatically improve response rates from pharmaceutical cancer treatment.
Live cancer cells taken from a patient are used to create an in vivo-like (inside the organism) tumor environment in the laboratory. Multiple approved cancer drugs are then tested within that environment to see which ones perform with the highest efficacy. That information can then be used by treating physicians to inform their decision on an individual cancer patient’s treatment regimen.
“We’re solving an important problem – helping oncologists find the right cancer drugs that work for their patients,” explained Matt Gevaert, cofounder and chief executive officer of the Greenville-based company. “There’s a real opportunity for cancer treatment to take a big jump. Approaching cancer the way we’re doing it can be transformative for patients if you know to a greater degree what drugs will work best for them.”
Setting a Cornerstone for Therapy Selection
At SCbio’s annual conference in Charleston, S.C., Gevaert noted there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to treating cancer. There are vast differences in an individual’s biology, as well as within the tumor micro-environment. Because of these differences, cancer drugs can work differently person to person.
“It’s a big problem despite the capabilities of the smartest doctors with the best status quo test results. Drugs don’t always work,” Gevaert said. “This can change through a test in which what happens in the lab actually represents what happens in a cancer patient, in human beings like me and you.”
The response of cells sent to Kiyatec’s Greenville labs is measured against available medications. In simple terms, when a cancer patients’ cells die in the manufactured cell culture above a specified rate, they’ll die in a body. Test results correlate to clinical outcomes. That improves a physician’s understanding of what choice of medication can have the most significant impact on a patient, Gevaert said.
“People want to know what drugs are highly likely to work in their body,” Gevaert said.
With an analysis turnaround of seven to 10 days, Gevaert predicted that Kiyatec’s technology platform will one day be used as a cornerstone for therapy selection.
First Product Focusing on Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors
The company’s 3D platform addresses significant limitations of standard preclinical testing approaches and demonstrates a higher correlation to patient outcome. The company’s first commercial product is aimed at high-grade glioma tumors, which start in the brain or spinal cord.
The 3D-Predict Glioma test informs therapy selection in the clinic for glioblastoma and other high-grade gliomas. The test reveals a statistically significant prediction of an individual patient’s response to oncology treatments, prior to being treated. Company data shows newly-diagnosed glioblastoma patients predicted to respond favorably by the 3-D Predict Glioma platform survived an additional six months compared to those predicted not to respond.
Beyond the 3-D Glioma test, Kiyatec is also developing additional tests for other solid tumors. Supported by $18 million raised through a Series C fundraising round in December 2022, Kiyatec plans to develop tests for ovarian, breast, non-small cell lung cancer and rare tumors over time.
In addition to its testing, Gevaert said the company’s culture services are capable of providing keen insights into preclinical work conducted by pharmaceutical companies. Kiyatec’s platform can offer a clinically relevant assessment of an in-human response before clinical trials begin.
Anchoring Downtown Greenville’s Innovation District
Kiyatec is the anchor tenant of Main Street Labs, a 100,000 square-foot development in downtown Greenville that serves as the anchor for the city’s Innovation District. The company occupies the entire bottom floor of the building at Washington and Main streets.
Prior to its new space in the refurbished building, Kiyatec was housed in Greenville’s Prisma Health Cancer Center. That afforded the company a collaborative environment for the past 10 years, Gevaert said. Now, in the city’s Innovation District, Gevaert is looking forward not only to the growth of Kiyatec but the entirety of Greenville’s life sciences ecosystem.
“We’re part of the dynamic environment in downtown Greenville. We are in the city center, the heart of downtown Greenville,” Gevaert said. “This is an innovative community and will allow us to attract great talent.”
These South Carolina life science insights are authored by life sciences writer @Alex Keown, and provided by Inspire Agency and SCbio.