Torque Announces Appointment of Immunotherapy Pioneer F. Stephen Hodi, MD, to Scientific Advisory Board and Alex Bruni as COO/ CFO
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., November 2, 2018— Torque, an immuno-oncology company developing first-in-class Deep Primed™ T Cell Therapeutics to direct immune power deep within the tumor microenvironment, announced today the appointment of F. Stephen Hodi, MD to the company’s Scientific Advisory Board and the appointment of Alex Bruni as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer.
“We are thrilled to have Alex join our management team and Stephen join the Torque Scientific Advisory Board,” said Bart Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Torque. “Stephen led the pioneering clinical trial of the first checkpoint inhibitor approved by the FDA for cancer and is a leading immunotherapy investigator. Alex brings impressive experience leading finance, strategic transactions, and operations for pharmaceutical companies and will play a critical role in building Torque as we launch into clinical development later this year.”
Dr. Hodi is Director of the Melanoma Center and the Center for Immuno-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, the Sharon Crowley Martin Chair in Melanoma at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is an internationally recognized leader in developing immune therapy and melanoma therapeutics, particularly known for the clinical development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, and his clinical investigation efforts have pioneered the use of immune checkpoint blockade and combination therapy approaches to treat cancer. Dr. Hodi led the first clinical trial of what would become Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, the first checkpoint inhibitor approved for cancer, and he has continued as a key investigator in the clinical development of the second family of checkpoint inhibitors that block PD-1 and PD-L1. Dr. Hodi is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He is an author on more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and serves on the editorial board of several immunology and oncology journals. He received an MD from Cornell University Medical College, completed postdoctoral training in Internal Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a Medical Oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“Torque’s immunotherapy technology is building off advances we are making with checkpoint inhibitor therapy—using different and potentially synergistic approaches to restoring T cell function to target and kill cancer,” said Dr. Hodi. “Checkpoint inhibitors take the biological brakes off the immune system to restore T cell function against a broad range of tumors, while Deep Priming has the potential to drive T cell function through a combination of antigen priming and cytokine activation. This is a unique and promising approach, and I am excited to work with the Torque team on this potentially transformative new cancer treatment.”
Mr. Bruni brings more than 15 years of experience in strategic finance, operations, and M&A with life sciences companies to his new role as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Torque. Previously, he held several leadership positions at Patheon (acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific), including Vice President of Finance and Vice President of Corporate Development. During his tenure at Patheon, he helped lead a significant transformation of the company, including several M&A and financing transactions, implementation of a global operational excellence program, a successful IPO on the NYSE in 2016, and the company’s sale to Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2017. Prior to that, he held strategic Finance and Operations leadership positions at Merz, CombinatoRx, Sepracor, and EMD Serono. Mr. Bruni has an MBA from Babson College and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.
“Torque’s Deep-Primed immune cell therapeutics have tremendous commercial potential,” said Mr. Bruni. “I’m delighted to join the Torque team as the company prepares to initiate the first clinical trials of Deep-Primed immune cell therapies, and I look forward to helping to build a great company.”
About Deep-Primed™ Immune Cell Therapeutics
Torque’s Deep-Priming platform uses advanced cell process engineering to:
- prime and activate T cells to target multiple tumor antigens and
- tether immune-stimulatory drugs to the surface of these multi-target T cells to direct immune activation in the tumor microenvironment
- using a proprietary technology platform, without genetic engineering, for a high margin of safety.
Deep-Primed T cells both target multiple tumor antigens and pharmacologically activate an immune response with anchored cytokines. This process does not require genetic engineering of the T cells and so preserves the natural T cell receptor for delivering a regulated immune response, with the potential for a high margin of safety. In addition to antigen priming, immunomodulators are tethered to the surface of Deep-Primed T cells—initially IL-15 and IL-12 cytokines, and TLR agonists—that activate both innate and adaptive immunity. Administering these immunomodulators systemically to a patient can cause lethal toxicity by activating immune cells throughout the body. By loading precise doses of cytokines onto the surface of T cells, Deep Priming focuses the immune response to target the tumor, without systemic exposure.
In hematologic cancers, this new class of immune cell therapeutics has the potential to improve on the initial success of single-target CAR T therapeutics with expanded efficacy and also move cell therapy treatment out of the hospital with a high margin of safety. For solid tumors, Deep-Primed T cells have the potential to enable efficacy against tumors with heterogeneous antigens protected by hostile microenvironments, which are not readily addressable with the first generation of immune cell therapies.
About Torque (www.torquetx.com)
Torque is an immuno-oncology company developing Deep Primed™ T cell therapeutics to direct immune power deep within the tumor microenvironment. Torque’s lead product candidate is Deep IL-15, which is in pre-IND development for hematologic and solid tumors. The company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.