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<h4>Background and aims</h4>Therapies for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection are urgently needed because of viral integration, persistence of viral antigen expression, inadequate HBV-specific immune responses, and treatment regimens that require lifelong adherence to suppress the virus. Immune mobilizing monoclonal T Cell receptors against virus (ImmTAV) molecules represent a therapeutic strategy combining an affinity-enhanced T Cell receptor with an anti-CD3 T Cell-activating moiety. This bispecific fusion protein redirects T cells to specifically lyse infected cells expressing the target virus-derived peptides presented by human leukocyte antigen (HLA).<h4>Approach and results</h4>ImmTAV molecules specific for HLA-A*02:01-restricted epitopes from HBV envelope, polymerase, and core antigens were engineered. The ability of ImmTAV-Env to activate and redirect polyclonal T cells toward cells containing integrated HBV and cells infected with HBV was assessed using cytokine secretion assays and imaging-based killing assays. Elimination of infected cells was further quantified using a modified fluorescent hybridization of viral RNA assay. Here, we demonstrate that picomolar concentrations of ImmTAV-Env can redirect T cells from healthy and HBV-infected donors toward hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells containing integrated HBV DNA resulting in cytokine release, which could be suppressed by the addition of a corticosteroid in vitro. Importantly, ImmTAV-Env redirection of T cells induced cytolysis of antigen-positive HCC cells and cells infected with HBV in vitro, causing a reduction of hepatitis B e antigen and specific loss of cells expressing viral RNA.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The ImmTAV platform has the potential to enable the elimination of infected cells by redirecting endogenous non-HBV-specific T cells, bypassing exhausted HBV-specific T cells. This represents a promising therapeutic option in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, with our lead candidate now entering trials.

Original publication

DOI

10.1002/hep.31503

Type

Journal article

Journal

Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)

Publication Date

11/2020

Volume

72

Pages

1528 - 1540

Addresses

Immunocore Ltd, Abingdon, United Kingdom.