Annelies Wauters

Artificial antigen-presenting cells for immunotherapy

In immunotherapy a patient’s immune system is modulated to elicit an active or suppresive response. Current approaches are time-consuming, costly and involve patient invasive procedures. In addition, translation of novel immunotherapies towards the clinic remain limited due to too low efficacy and high systemic toxicity. Precision nanomedicines have high potential to overcome these issues by in vivo cell specific targeting. During this project, we will focus on the development of artificial antigen-presenting cells (aAPCs), that can be used for T-cell modulation. Polymeric nanoparticles consisting of (biodegradable) block-co-polymers, so-called polymersomes, are interesting for this purpose as they can be easily functionalized via e.g. click chemistry. Moreover, their shape can be precisely tuned, varying from spherical, to discoidal or tubular. A high-aspect ratio shape has been described to be advantageous for the multivalent immune synapse formation between the APC and T-cell, as well as cell migration and phagocytic uptake. Different polymersome-shapes will be functionalized with various interaction molecules and they will be studied for their effect on ex vivo T-cell responses and possibly their in vivo performance. It is envisioned that this modular platform can be applied for immunotherapies including cancer (activation) or auto-immune diseases (suppression).