The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dragonfly Therapeutics, Inc., today announced a strategic collaboration to bring Dragonfly’s TriNKET™ (tri-specific natural killer cell engager therapy) immunotherapy drug candidates to patients in clinical trials beginning in 2019.

Dragonfly committed more than $10 million to launch the studies, which will be available for patients with both solid tumor and hematological cancers.

“We will be studying the possibility of offering novel therapeutics that can directly kill cancer, recruit immune cells and provide a potentially different safety window than existing immuno-oncology options,” said John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Thoracic Head & Neck Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. “We are hopeful that these agents could provide a new treatment option for our patients.”

Dragonfly’s TriNKETs™ bind to the proteins expressed on both cancer cells and natural killer (NK) cells. Through this binding NK cells are activated, making them aware of the cancer and allowing them to directly kill the cancer cells while notifying other immune cells to attack the cancer. NK cells’ unique ability to distinguish stressed cancer cells from healthy cells also provides TriNKETs with a broader potential safety window than traditional T cell-based immunotherapies.

“MD Anderson has demonstrated expertise in advancing breakthrough treatment options to patients in thoughtfully designed, innovative clinical trials,” said Bill Haney, co-founder and CEO of Dragonfly Therapeutics. “We’re excited to work with their clinicians to bring our first oncology drug candidates to patients.”