Scripps Research’s drug development arm, Calibr, made headlines in August when the FDA approved its investigational new drug (IND) application for a novel immunotherapy for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. 

The drug, known as CCW702, has the potential to be effective in patients who have failed prior therapies and exhausted their treatment options. Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer occurs when cancer spreads beyond the prostate and it is able to grow even when the patient receives hormone-reducing treatments to manage the cancer. 

“Our drug candidate works differently than traditional chemotherapeutics and androgen-deprivation therapies,” says Travis Young, PhD, vice president of biologics at Calibr, who led the preclinical development of the molecule. “We are truly excited about the opportunity to evaluate the safety and anti-tumor activity of this molecule in patients.” 

CCW702 is a first-of-its-kind molecule that seeks to redirect a patient’s immune system to eliminate cancer cells. The molecule’s unique design combines the specificity of a validated imaging agent for prostate cancer with the potency of immunotherapy. In preclinical work, it proved highly effective at completely eliminating prostate cancer tumors. 

The launch of the clinical program— Calibr’s fourth overall and second being run independently by the institute—is another major milestone for the new model being pioneered by Scripps Research, where innovative discoveries are translated into new medicines within the nonprofit enterprise. 

CCW702 began as a research project in the laboratory of Peter Schultz, PhD, at Scripps Research and progressed to the IND stage by Calibr through support from the Wellcome Trust. The molecule is manufactured using unnatural amino acid technology pioneered in Schultz’s laboratory in collaboration with Ambrx Inc. 

“This program exemplifies how Scripps Research and Calibr are able to bring high-risk, high-reward programs into clinical trials to impact patients while creating value that stimulates and supports further research,” says Schultz, president and CEO of Scripps Research. “This model can be transformative in the way new medicines are developed.”