Candel enlists Bionauts for fight against brain cancers, setting stage for delivery of oncolytic viruses using tiny robots

Bionaut Labs and Candel Therapeutics have teamed up for a fantastic voyage. The newly minted partners plan to use Bionaut’s remote-controlled robots to deliver novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies to brain tumors.

Los Angeles-based Bionaut broke cover earlier this year, emerging from stealth with $20 million to work on microscale robots capable of getting therapeutic payloads to targeted areas of the brain. The idea is to use magnetic fields to guide the robots, which resemble miniature screws, through the body and to sites in the brain to enable the local delivery of biologics, small molecules or other payloads.

Candel sees potential to apply the technology to oncolytic viral immunotherapies to treat brain cancers. The Massachusetts-based biotech is already working to treat brain cancers with the adenovirus-based therapy CAN-2409, but the investigational treatment requires the drug to be given during neurosurgery. 

Bionaut’s robots could expand use of oncolytic viral immunotherapies in the treatment of brain cancers by opening up a less invasive route of administration. That possibility has caught the attention of Candel CEO Paul Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D. 

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“Candel continues to evaluate expansion of our clinically validated oncolytic viral immunotherapy approach into additional subsets of patients with high-grade glioma using novel methods, such as the Bionaut platform, to deliver our investigational medicines,” Tak said in a statement.

For Bionaut, the deal provides an early external validation of the potential of its approach. Bionaut has run preclinical studies on small and large live animals, delivering early evidence that its robots don’t cause long-term neurological damage, and has outlined plans to enter the clinic in 2023.   

The partners opted against disclosing the terms of the agreement.