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Ziopharm Oncology Changes Name to Alaunos, Begins Enrolling T-Cell Receptor Therapy Trial

NEW YORK – Ziopharm Oncology said on Wednesday that it has changed its name to Alaunos Therapeutics, moved its headquarters from Boston to Houston, opened a facility to manufacture cell therapies in house, and begun enrolling patients to its TCR-T library clinical trial.

The changes are part of the company's previously announced plans to restructure and focus more narrowly on T-cell receptor, or TCR, therapies. In outlining its restructuring plans in September, the firm, then Ziopharm, had said its Phase I/II TCR-T library trial was delayed due to inadequate resources at its contract manufacturer, spurring it to put more resources toward building up its own in-house manufacturing capabilities for early-phase trials.

Now, the newly named Alaunos has completed the qualification stage for its good manufacturing practice TCR manufacturing facility located near the Texas Medical Center in Houston. Alaunos employees are staffing the fully operational facility.

Alaunos has also begun enrolling patients with various solid cancer types within the Phase I/II TCR-T clinical trial. In this study, patients will receive the firm's investigational autologous T cells, which are engineered using Alaunos' Sleeping Beauty transposon/transposase system to express TCRs targeting hotspot neoantigens. The firm is conducting the trial at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and enrolling patients whose tumors have specific HLA types and harbor hotspot mutations targeted by one of 10 TCRs from Alaunos' library.

These 10 TCRs include four recently added TCRs and target KRAS, TP53, and EGFR mutations in patients with solid tumors including non-small cell lung, colorectal, endometrial, pancreatic, ovarian, and bile duct cancers. Alaunos expects to begin dosing patients in the first half of 2022 and to report interim data later this year.