Salk Institute

Technologies Available for Licensing

Oncolytic Viral Cancer Immunotherapy

Modular construction of targeted, systemically delivered oncolytic adenovirus for immunotherapy of cancer.

INVENTION: Oncolytic viruses are exquisite tumor-selective, multi-mechanistic antitumor agents that can kill cancer cells, not just through direct oncolysis, but also via immunogenic cell death. These viruses are growing in importance as agents to stimulate the antitumor immune response, break immune tolerance in the tumor microenvironment, and as vehicles to deliver tumor antigens and immuno-stimulatory agents for vaccines. Multimodal immunogenic cell death induced by viral infection of tumor cells, not only presents potent danger signals to dendritic cells but also efficiently cross-presents tumor-associated antigens to dendritic cells and T cells to induce adaptive anti-tumor immunity. However, the full potential of these viruses has not been realized due to challenges that still need to be overcome in their development, including: inefficient tumor targeting; systemic delivery- avoiding off-target uptake and inflammation; tumor heterogeneity; inability to target metastases; overcoming tumor resistance; and the avoidance of neutralizing antibodies. Dr. O'Shea has overcome these challenges by developing a novel platform for the rapid assembly and engineering of adenoviruses from libraries of component parts obtained from different adenovirus strains (see previous mod). This facilitates the rapid generation of custom systemically-delivered vectors with the desired target specificity, increased potency, and the ability to escape and/or invoke different arms of the immune system.

This platform technology has, for the first time, permitted the rapid construction of viral particles with the desired functionalities. Viruses can now be designed to strike the right balance between direct oncolysis and the induction of immune-mediated tumor killing, a combination approach that we predict will prove more effective in eliminating all tumor cells, including those in the primary and metastatic nodules that escaped initial viral infection.



  • Targeted cancer vaccines
  • Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Precision Medicine in Cancer
  • Development of targeted therapies


  • Overcomes many of the challenges currently faced by oncolytic viral development
  • Rapid, customizable platform
  • Provides for targeted immunotherapy
  • Potentially overcomes the problems of tumor heterogeneity and immune resistance
  • Provides for a balanced approach between direct tumor killing and immunogenic cell death
  • Can be customized for any immunotherapeutic molecule or target, e.g., GMCSF, CTLA4 and B7

STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT:  Developed at laboratory scale. Tested in genetically engineered mouse models of cancer. Ready for scale-up

BACKGROUND: The challenge of manipulating the large adenoviral genome has been overcome by exploiting the naturally modular structure of the virus to construct particles of desired characteristics using a synthetic biology approach, thus overcoming many of the challenges of oncolytic therapy development. This approach has permitted the field to expand beyond Ad5, which has been traditionally used, to the other 68 adenoviral serotypes, each with its own unique tissue tropism. Beyond natural tropisms, synthetic modules have been added to the viral surface, facilitating targeting to specific tumor receptors, thus addressing the challenges of tumor heterogeneity and resistance. Additional functionalities to stimulate the immune system and/or overcome tolerance have been designed into these viruses.  

INVENTORS: Clodagh O'Shea and Colin Powers 
PATENT STATUS: US Patent Appl No. 2013/0231267, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan, Korea
PUBLICATION: In preparation
CONTACT: Michelle A. Booden, Ph.D., 858.453.4100 x1612,
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Michelle Booden
Director, Licensing and Intellectual Property
Salk Institute
Cancer Therapeutics
Cancer Vaccines
Oncolytic Therapy
Targeted Therapies
Viral Vectors
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