Bespoke Biotherapeutics, San Mateo, CA
This summer, I remotely interned at Bespoke Biotherapeutics—a biotechnology startup headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that is focused on genome engineering and synthetic biology. Bespoke is developing novel engineered B-cell therapeutics targeting solid tumor cancers. I focused on a particular B-cell product candidate called BB-2112 that is intended to treat advanced cancers (e.g., breast, lung and gastric cancers) that express the ERBB2 (HER2) tumor-associated antigen. On its surface, the B-cells will express engineered membrane receptors that bind to ERBB2. Once a BB-2112 B-cell binds to a cancer cell, it will locally express and secrete two anticancer interleukins, IL-12 and IL-21. These interleukins, which are immune system signaling molecules, will modulate local immunity to promote cancer cell destruction. IL-12 must be delivered to the site of the cancer, because systemic exposure following intravenous infusion is highly toxic and even lethal. IL-21 must be delivered locally and continuously because of its very short half-life. BB-2112 will attract and activate immune effector cells, such as T-cells and NK-cells.
First, I received a tutorial-style crash course in immunology from my supervisor, a veteran biotech entrepreneur and former academic physician. I loved what I learned. I was fascinated by the many complexities of the immune system, as well as how much we don’t yet know. Immunotherapy and genome engineering are newer areas of study. It makes perfect sense to me that treatments should combine the body’s natural disease-fighting capabilities with cutting-edge technology. I’m excited to see the field grow—and hope to be a part of that growth.
I made valuable contributions to a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant that Bespoke is applying for. Working on this project exposed me to a unique style of writing that will be crucial for any future career path in the sciences. I learned how biotechnology leaders must balance scientific innovation, public needs and business sensibilities. I was glad to assist with this important project that will hopefully provide Bespoke with the funding required to continue expanding their research. As part of this process, I researched statistics about the number of new cases and advanced staged diagnoses each year for different types of cancer that express a variety of tumor-associated antigens. My ability to comprehend scientific literature grew exponentially, I became better at searching PubMed for studies pertinent to the project’s goals, and I have an improved ability to choose reliable and relevant sources.
As a result of my internship, I have developed my interest in cancer immunotherapy and I hope to pursue a related career. My love for biology and appreciation of the complexities of the human body have grown tremendously, and I feel great about majoring in biology at Williams. I will seek out electives relating to immunology and body systems.
I am deeply grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Case and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their generous support in making this fun, educational and eye-opening summer experience possible!