(19)
(11)EP 4 053 157 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION
published in accordance with Art. 153(4) EPC

(43)Date of publication:
07.09.2022 Bulletin 2022/36

(21)Application number: 20883248.5

(22)Date of filing:  02.11.2020
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C07K 14/47(2006.01)
A61K 39/00(2006.01)
A61K 9/51(2006.01)
A61K 9/00(2006.01)
B82Y 5/00(2011.01)
C07K 16/28(2006.01)
A61K 39/385(2006.01)
A61K 9/19(2006.01)
A61P 35/00(2006.01)
(52)Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC):
A61K 9/00; A61K 9/19; A61K 9/51; A61K 39/00; A61K 39/385; A61P 35/00; B82Y 5/00; C07K 14/47; C07K 16/28
(86)International application number:
PCT/KR2020/015164
(87)International publication number:
WO 2021/086158 (06.05.2021 Gazette  2021/18)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(30)Priority: 01.11.2019 KR 20190138580

(71)Applicant: Cellemedy Co., Ltd
Gyeonggi-do 13605 (KR)

(72)Inventors:
  • LEE, Jee Won
    Seoul 06707 (KR)
  • LEE, Bo Ram
    Seoul 02476 (KR)
  • YOON, Chul Joo
    Seoul 06599 (KR)

(74)Representative: dompatent von Kreisler Selting Werner - Partnerschaft von Patent- und Rechtsanwälten mbB 
Deichmannhaus am Dom Bahnhofsvorplatz 1
50667 Köln
50667 Köln (DE)

  


(54)DISEASE ANTIGEN-FUSED PROTEIN, AND USE THEREOF


(57) The present invention relates to a protein fused with a disease antigen and a use of same. The protein of the present invention is formed via self-assembly of ferritin monomers fused with a disease antigen epitope. The protein of the present invention exhibits excellent binding affinity to a human transferrin receptor, and thus can provide various kinds of disease antigen epitopes with different lengths to antigen-presenting cells so as to induce an immune response to the corresponding antigen.




Description

[Technical Field]



[0001] The present invention relates to a disease antigen-fused protein, and use thereof.

[Background Art]



[0002] In modern times, with the development of medical technology, non-curable diseases have almost disappeared, but cancer still requires very difficult and complex treatment unlike other disease treatment. Currently, methods used for cancer treatment include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. If the cancer does not metastasize to other areas but develops locally, it can be treated through cancer removal surgery. However, since cancer metastasis occurs in 70% or more of cancer patients, adjuvant therapy should be combined.

[0003] As one of such adjuvant therapies, radiation therapy to kill cancer cells using high energy radiation is performed. The radiation therapy inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells by irradiating the cancer cells, such that new cancer cells cannot be generated while preventing further division thereof. However, this method has a problem of entailing side effects to affect not only cancer cells but also normal cells.

[0004] Chemotherapy is an adjuvant therapy in which a drug is used to kill cancer cells after surgery, and is performed for the purpose of killing invisible cancer cells. However, the chemotherapy has a problem that side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss are accompanied.

[0005] Immunotherapy methods have recently emerged to minimize these side effects. Immunotherapy is a method of treating cancer using the patient's immune response, and can even prevent cancer. Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment method that activates cancer-specific immune cells by administering an antigen causing tumor formation, as in the principle of a vaccine, and then allows the activated immune cells to specifically attack the cancer in the body. Further, even if not suffering from cancer, administering a cancer-specific antigen into the body may activate inactivated immune cells into cancer-specific memory immune cells, thereby specifically attacking cancer cells when cancer develops.

[0006] For cancer immunotherapy, it is important to transport cancer-specific antigens (tumor-associated antigen (TAA), tumor-specific antigen (TSA)) to lymph nodes where immune cells are concentrated. In particular, among tumor-specific antigens, neoantigens, which are found in various tumor types such as lung cancer and kidney cancer and mainly found in melanoma, can be newly generated by potential gene activity of individuals with cancer or mutations in the DNA part. These antigens are very important in producing a "customized cancer vaccine" based on patient's individual genetic information.

[0007] However, conventional attempts to transport only cancer-specific antigens to lymph nodes have not been very effective. The reason is that the tumor antigen itself was somewhat short in a length, and the tumor antigen presentation efficiency for amplifying and activating tumor antigen-specific immune cells was very low, which in turn considerably reduced the efficiency of inducing tumor antigen-specific immunity (Non-Patent Document 1). As carriers of the cancer-specific antigens as described above in the body, polymers are widely used. Further, if a cancer antigen is immobilized on the surface of a polymer for transporting a cancer-specific antigen in the body, the cancer-specific antigen should be exposed to the surface of particles through chemical binding. However, there is still a limitation in regard to uniform exposition of the cancer-specific antigen to the surface of particles at a high density.

[0008] Cancer immunotherapy uses the patient's immune system thus to involve low side effects, compared to conventional anti-cancer treatment methods, exerts therapeutic effects sustained for a long time by the formation of immune memory, and due to the principle of tumor antigen-specific recognition, less influences on general cells thus to have an advantage of very little side effects. Further, due to recent clinical success cases for cancer patients with recurrent or anticancer drug resistance, cancer immunotherapy has been receiving explosive attention enough to be selected by Science as Breakthrough of the year 2013.

[Detailed Description]


[Problems to be Solved by Invention]



[0009] An object of the present invention is to provide a novel protein capable of binding to human transferrin receptor.

[0010] In addition, another object of the present invention is to provide a novel protein capable of effectively presenting a disease antigen to dendritic cells.

[0011] Further, another object of the present invention is to provide a pharmaceutical composition for prevention or treatment of disease, which includes the novel protein described above.

[0012] Furthermore, another object of the present invention is to provide a method for treatment of a disease, which includes administering the novel protein described above.

[Means for Solving Problems]



[0013] According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a protein formed by self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which disease antigen epitopes are fused, wherein a binding force (K) to human transferrin receptor satisfies the following Equation 1:




(wherein K = [P][T]/[PT], wherein [P] represents a concentration of the protein in an equilibrium state of a binding reaction between the protein and the human transferrin receptor, [T] represents a concentration of the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state, and [PT] represents a concentration of a complex of the protein and the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state).

[0014] The protein of the present invention may have K ≤ 100 nM.

[0015] The protein of the present invention may have K ≤ 50 nM

[0016] The protein of the present invention may have K ≤ 30 nM

[0017] The protein of the present invention may have K ≤ 20 nM

[0018] In the present invention, the disease antigen epitope may be any one selected from the group consisting of gp100, MART-1, Melna-A, MAGE-A3, MAGE-C2, Mammaglobin-A, proteinsase-3, mucin-1, HPV E6, LMP2, PSMA, GD2, hTERT, PAP, ERG, NA17, ALK, GM3, EPhA2, NA17-A, TRP-1, TRP-2, NY-ESO-1, CEA, CA 125, AFP, Survivin, AH1, ras, G17DT, MUC1, Her-2/neu, E75, p53, PSA, HCG, PRAME, WT1, URLC10, VEGFR1, VEGFR2, E7, Tyrosinase peptide, B16F10, EL4 and neoantigens.

[0019] The ferritin monomer of the present invention may be derived from human ferritin heavy chains.

[0020] The protein of the present invention may have a spherical shape in which 24 ferritin monomers are self-assembled.

[0021] The disease antigen epitope of the present invention may be fused to at least one of sites between adjacent α-helixes of the ferritin monomer.

[0022] In the present invention, the disease antigen epitope may be fused at N-terminus or C-terminus of the ferritin monomer.

[0023] In the present invention, the disease antigen epitope may be fused to A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop or D-E loop of the ferritin monomer.

[0024] In the present invention, the disease antigen epitope may be fused between N-terminus and A helix or between E helix and C-terminus of the ferritin monomer.

[0025] In the present invention, the disease antigen epitope may be fused inside at least one of the helixes of the ferritin monomer.

[0026] The disease antigen epitope of the present invention may have an amino acid length of 25aa or less.

[0027] The protein of the present invention may include a water-soluble fraction, which is present in a ratio of 40% or more in an E. coli production system.

[0028] The disease antigen epitope of the present invention may be any one selected from the group consisting of brain cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, uterine cancer, vascular tumor, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, melanoma, glioma, neuroblastoma, sarcoma, laryngeal cancer, parotid carcinoma, biliary tract cancer, thyroid cancer, actinic keratosis, acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, adenocarcinoma, adenoma, glandular squamous cell carcinoma, anal duct cancer, anal cancer, anal rectal cancer, astrocytoma, large vaginal gland carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, biliary cancer, bone cancer, bone marrow cancer, bronchial cancer, bronchial gland carcinoma, carcinoid, bile duct carcinoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, clear cell carcinoma, connective tissue cancer, cyst adenoma, digestive system cancer, duodenal cancer, endocrine system cancer, endoderm sinus tumor, endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial adenocarcinoma, endothelial cell carcinoma, ventricular cell, epithelial cell cancer, orbital cancer, focal nodular hyperproliferation, gallbladder cancer, flank cancer, gastric basal cancer, gastrinoma, glioblastoma, glucagonoma, heart cancer, hemangioblastoma, hemangioendothelioma, hemangioma, hepatoadenoma, hepatic adenoma, hepatobiliary cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, ileal cancer, insulinoma, intraepithelial neoplasm, intraepithelial squamous cell neoplasm, intrahepatic biliary cancer, invasive squamous cell carcinoma, jejunal cancer, joint cancer, pelvic cancer, giant cell carcinoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, malignant mesothelioma, mesothelioma, medullary epithelial carcinoma, meningeal cancer, mesothelial cancer, metastatic carcinoma, oral cancer, mucosal epithelial carcinoma, multiple myeloma, muscle cancer, nasal duct cancer, nervous system cancer, non-epithelial skin cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chondrocyte carcinoma, oligodendrocyte cancer, oral cancer, osteosarcoma, papillary serous adenocarcinoma, penile cancer, pharyngeal cancer, pituitary tumor, plasmacytoma, sarcoma, pulmonary blastoma, rectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, respiratory cancer, retinoblastoma, serous carcinoma, sinus cancer, skin cancer, small cell carcinoma, small intestine cancer, smooth muscle cancer, soft tissue cancer, somatostatin-secreting tumor, spinal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, striatal muscle cancer, subcutaneous cell carcinoma, T cell leukemia, tongue cancer, ureteral cancer, urethral cancer, cervical cancer, uterine trunk cancer, vaginal cancer, VIPoma, genital cancer, hyperdifferentiated carcinoma and Wilm's tumor

[0029] In addition, according to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a pharmaceutical composition for prevention or treatment of cancer, which includes the protein of the present invention.

[0030] The pharmaceutical composition of the present invention may be used for preventing or treating any one selected from the group consisting of melanoma, lung cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, glioblastoma, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, renal cell cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, metastatic cancer, prostate cancer, gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancer.

[0031] The pharmaceutical composition of the present invention may be an injectable formulation.

[0032] The pharmaceutical composition of the present invention may be administered through intraperitoneal, intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous, intradermal, oral, topical, intranasal, pulmonary or rectal administration.

[0033] Further, according to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method for treatment of cancer, which includes administering the protein of the present invention to a subject.

[0034] According to the treatment method of the present invention, any one selected from the group consisting of melanoma, lung cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, glioblastoma, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cell cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, metastatic cancer, prostate cancer, gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancer may be treated.

[Advantageous effects]



[0035] The protein of the present invention has excellent binding ability with human transferrin receptors.

[0036] The protein of the present invention provides a fused antigen epitope to an antigen-presenting cell to induce an immune action against the antigen.

[0037] The proteins of the present invention are capable of fusing antigen epitopes of various lengths at various positions.

[0038] The protein of the present invention has a substantially spherical shape by self-assembly of 24 ferritin monomers to which disease antigens are fused.

[0039] The protein of the present invention is a nanoparticle. This is significantly smaller in size than antibodies and the like.

[0040] The protein of the present invention can be easily produced through microorganisms such as E. coli and is obtained in a high ratio of soluble form.

[0041] The protein of the present invention can be used as an immune anticancer agent.

[0042] When a disease antigen is fused to the protein of the present invention, an immune response required for the treatment of the disease can be induced.

[Brief Description of Drawings]



[0043] 

FIG. 1A is a schematic diagram of an expression vector for producing a protein of the present invention in which a tumor antigen is expressed, and FIG. 1B illustrates a structure of the produced protein.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating a binding site of a tumor antigen and a transferrin receptor (TfR) on the surface of gp100-huHF nanoparticles prepared according to the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates TEM images and DLS results of the gp100-huHF protein of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates results of measuring the binding affinity of the gp100-huHF protein of the present invention with the transferrin receptor (TfR).

FIG. 5 illustrates: a schematic diagram of an expression vector for preparing an immune checkpoint inhibitor (huHF-PD1 protein), into which a PD1 domain capable of binding to PD-L1 is inserted; a structure of the gp100-huHF protein; TEM image of the gp100-huHF protein of the present invention; a diameter distribution view of the gp100-huHF protein of the present invention; and results of measuring the binding affinity of huHF-PD1 protein with PD1 ligand (PD-L1), huHF-TPP1 (AB loop, CD loop) and αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus), respectively.

FIG. 6 illustrates results of cellular uptake by dendritic cells of the protein of the present invention.

FIG. 7A illustrates results of comparing the efficiencies of huHF protein and huHF-PD1 protein to target cancer cells CT-26 and B16F10 through fluorescence images; FIG. 7B illustrates results of comparing the efficiencies of huHF protein and huHF-aPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus) to target CT-26 cells through fluorescence images; and FIG. 7C illustrates results of comparing the efficiencies of huHF protein, huHF-TPP1 and huHF-smPD1 to target CT-26 cells through fluorescence images.

FIG. 8 illustrates results of confirming the delivery efficiency of gp100-huHF to lymph nodes.

FIG. 9 illustrates results of comparing the cancer targeting efficiencies of huHF, PD-L1 antibody and huHF-PD1 protein to cancer cell CT-26, wherein the results of huHF, α-PD-L1 and PD1-huHF are shown from the left in the bar graph of relative fluorescence intensity for each organ.

FIG. 10 illustrates results of comparing the immunity efficiency to insertion site of gp100 in the gp100-huHF protein, wherein the left side of the bar graph for each group is the result obtained without gp100 and the right side is the result obtained with gp100.

FIG. 11A illustrates results of confirming whether OVA-huHF protein can increase OVA peptide antigen presentation of antigen-presenting cells through flow cytometry (FACS), while FIG. 11B illustrates results of determining the expression level of DC maturation marker of the protein wherein the results of MHC-II, CD80, CD40 and CD86 are shown from the left in the bar graph for each group shown in FIG. 11B.

FIG. 12 is a schematic diagram of an experimental method for confirming the tumor antigen inhibitory ability of gp100-huHF protein and a graph illustrating experimental results.

FIG. 13 is a schematic diagram of an experimental method for confirming the tumor formation inhibitory effect of huHF-PD1 protein in CT26 (colorectal cancer cells) and B16F10 (melanoma cells) in an animal model and graphs illustrating experimental results.

FIG. 14 illustrates a schematic diagram of an experimental method for confirming the tumor formation inhibitory effect in CT26 (colorectal cancer cells) and B16F10 (melanoma cells) due to effects of a combined treatment with huHF-PD1 protein, gp100-huHF and AH1-huHF protein in an animal model and graphs illustrating experimental results.

FIG. 15A illustrates results of comparing the T-cell mediated apoptosis efficiencies of PD-L1 antibody and huHF-PD1 protein in cancer cells CT26 and B16F10; FIG. 15B illustrates results of comparing the T-cell activity responses of PD-L1 antibody and huHF-PD1 protein in cancer cells CT26 and B16F10; and FIG. 15C illustrates T-cell activity responses to tumor antigens, respectively, by the combined treatment of AH1-huHF protein, gp100-huHF protein and huHF-PD1.

FIG. 16 illustrates results of confirming the induction of immune side effects with the existing antibody therapeutic agents.

FIG. 17 illustrates results of suppressing tumor recurrence in CT26 (colorectal cancer cells) by treatment using AH1-huHF protein and/or huHF-PD1 protein.

FIG. 18 illustrates results of extracting T cells from the body of the experimental mice and verifying the same in order to determine T-cell activity for inducing inhibition of tumor formation after tumor rechallenge of the huHF-PD1 protein, wherein the results of PBS, AH1-huHF, α-PD-L1, PD1-huHF, AH1-huHF + α-PD-L1 and AH1-huHF + PD1-huHF are shown in this order from the left side.

FIG. 19 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector for preparation of NA-gp100-huHF and the production of the protein thereof; FIG. 20 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector for preparation of EC-gp100-huHF and the production of the protein thereof; FIG. 21 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector for preparation of Din-gp100-huHF and the production of the protein thereof; FIG. 22 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector for preparation of Ein0gp100-huHF and the production of the protein thereof, FIG. 23 is a vector schematic diagram for preparation of msmPD1-huHF and the production of the protein thereof.

FIG. 24 illustrates confirming the tumor inhibitory ability of PD1-huHF

FIG. 25 illustrates a schedule for assessment of the tumor inhibitory ability of the huHF-PD-L1-TIGIT dual blocker.

FIGS. 26 and 27 illustrate results of evaluating the tumor suppression ability of the huHF-PD-L1-TIGIT dual blocker.

FIGS. 28 and 29 illustrate results of evaluating the targeting ability of huHF-α-PD-L1 HCDR3 according to the binding site of the ferritin monomer.

FIG. 30 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 31 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-aPD HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 32 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-αCTLA4 HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 33 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-aTIGIT HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 34 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-αLAG3 HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 35 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-αTIM3 HCDR3, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.

FIG. 36 illustrates a schematic diagram of a vector of huHF-αPD-L1-αTIGIT, and results of confirming the production and self-assembly of the protein thereof.


[Mode for Carrying out Invention]



[0044] The present invention relates to a protein that is formed by self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which disease antigen epitopes are fused, and is bound to a transferrin receptor.

[0045] The ferritin may be a ferritin derived from human, animals and microorganisms.

[0046] The human ferritin is composed of a heavy chain (21 kDa) and a light chain (19 kDa), and exhibits a feature of forming spherical nanoparticles through self-assembly ability of monomers constituting the ferritin. The ferritin may form a self-assembly having a spherical three-dimensional structure by gathering 24 monomers.

[0047] For human ferritin, an outer diameter may be about 12 nm and an inner diameter may be about 8 nm. The structure of the ferritin monomer may be a form in which five α-helix structures, namely A helix, B helix, C helix, D helix and E helix are sequentially linked, and may include an amorphous polypeptide moiety to link polypeptides each having α-helix structure, called a loop.

[0048] The loop is a region that is not structurally damaged even when a peptide or a small protein antigen is inserted into the ferritin. At this time, fusing a peptide to the loop via cloning may prepare a peptide-ferritin fused protein monomer in which a peptide such as an epitope is positioned on a monomer of the ferritin. A loop connecting A helix and B helix refers to A-B loop. Likewise, a loop connecting B helix and C helix is B-C loop, a loop connecting C helix and D helix is C-D loop, and a loop connecting D helix and E helix is D-E loop.

[0049] Information on ferritin is known from NCBI (GenBank Accession No. NM_000146, NM_002032, etc.).

[0050] Ferritin may be a ferritin heavy chain, specifically, a human ferritin heavy chain. The human ferritin heavy chain may be a protein represented by an amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1 derived from human. In the present specification, the ferritin may be used interchangeably with the "human ferritin heavy chain" or "huHF."

[0051] Disease antigens may be antigens of any disease that can be prevented, treated, alleviated or ameliorated by an immune response. For example, the disease antigen may be a cell surface antigen of a cancer cell, a pathogen cell, or a cell infected with a pathogen. A specific site to determine antigen specificity of a disease antigen refers to a disease antigen epitope.

[0052] The disease stated herein may be, for example, cancer or an infectious disease.

[0053] The cancer may be selected from the group consisting of, for example, brain cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, uterine cancer, vascular tumor, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, melanoma, glioma, neuroblastoma, sarcoma, laryngeal cancer, parotid carcinoma, biliary tract cancer, thyroid cancer, actinic keratosis, acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, adenocarcinoma, adenoma, glandular squamous cell carcinoma, anal duct cancer, anal cancer, anal rectal cancer, astrocytoma, large vaginal gland carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, biliary cancer, bone cancer, bone marrow cancer, bronchial cancer, bronchial gland carcinoma, carcinoid, bile duct carcinoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, clear cell carcinoma, connective tissue cancer, cyst adenoma, digestive system cancer, duodenal cancer, endocrine system cancer, endoderm sinus tumor, endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial adenocarcinoma, endothelial cell carcinoma, ventricular cell, epithelial cell cancer, orbital cancer, focal nodular hyperproliferation, gallbladder cancer, flank cancer, gastric basal cancer, gastrinoma, glioblastoma, glucagonoma, heart cancer, hemangioblastoma, hemangioendothelioma, hemangioma, hepatoadenoma, hepatic adenoma, hepatobiliary cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, ileal cancer, insulinoma, intraepithelial neoplasm, intraepithelial squamous cell neoplasm, intrahepatic biliary cancer, invasive squamous cell carcinoma, jejunal cancer, joint cancer, pelvic cancer, giant cell carcinoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, malignant mesothelioma, mesothelioma, medullary epithelial carcinoma, meningeal cancer, mesothelial cancer, metastatic carcinoma, oral cancer, mucosal epithelial carcinoma, multiple myeloma, muscle cancer, nasal duct cancer, nervous system cancer, non-epithelial skin cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chondrocyte carcinoma, oligodendrocyte cancer, oral cancer, osteosarcoma, papillary serous adenocarcinoma, penile cancer, pharyngeal cancer, pituitary tumor, plasmacytoma, sarcoma, pulmonary blastoma, rectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, respiratory cancer, retinoblastoma, serous carcinoma, sinus cancer, skin cancer, small cell carcinoma, small intestine cancer, smooth muscle cancer, soft tissue cancer, somatostatin-secreting tumor, spinal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, striatal muscle cancer, subcutaneous cell carcinoma, T cell leukemia, tongue cancer, ureteral cancer, urethral cancer, cervical cancer, uterine trunk cancer, vaginal cancer, VIPoma, genital cancer, hyperdifferentiated carcinoma and Wilm's tumor.

[0054] The infectious disease may be, for example, a viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic or prion infection.

[0055] Cancer antigen epitopes may be gp100, MART-1, Melna-A, MAGE-A3, MAGE-C2, Mammaglobin-A, proteinsase-3, mucin-1, HPV E6, LMP2, PSMA, GD2, hTERT, PAP, ERG, NA17, ALK, GM3, EPhA2, NA17-A, TRP-1, TRP-2, NY-ESO-1, CEA, CA 125, AFP, Survivin, AH1, ras, G17DT, MUC1, Her-2/neu, E75, p53, PSA, HCG, PRAME, WT1, URLC10, VEGFR1, VEGFR2, E7, Tyrosinase peptide, B16F10, EL4 or neoantigens.

[0056] Neoantigen refers to an immunogenic peptide that is induced and formed by somatic mutations in tumor cells. The neoantigen forms a complex along with MHC I and migrates to the surface of a tumor cell, and thus may be displayed as an antigen epitope. T-cell receptors (TCRs) recognize the neoantigen-MHCI complex to trigger an immune response.

[0057] The disease antigen epitope is not limited to a specific length as long as it can be fused to the ferritin monomer.

[0058] The disease antigen epitope is not limited to a specific length as long as it does not interfere with self-assembly of the ferritin monomers.

[0059] The disease antigen epitope may be fused to any of the ferritin monomers. The disease antigen epitope is fused at a site that does not interfere with self-assembly of the ferritin monomer. The disease antigen epitope is preferably fused to the ferritin monomer such that it is exposed to the surface of the protein for the purpose of binding to the human transferrin receptor.

[0060] The disease antigen epitope may have an amino acid length of, for example, 25aa or less, 24aa or less, 23aa or less, 22aa or less, 21aa or less, 20aa or less, 19aa or less, 18aa or less, 17aa or less, 16aa or less, 15aa or less, 14aa or less, 13aa or less, 12aa or less, 11aa or less, 10aa or less, 9aa or less, 8aa or less, 7aa or less, 6aa or less, 5aa or less, etc.

[0061] The disease antigen epitope may have, for example, the amino acid length of 3aa or more, 4aa or more, 5aa or more, 6aa or more, 7aa or more, 8aa or more, 9aa or more, 10aa or more, etc.

[0062] Fusing the disease antigen epitope to the ferritin monomer may improve the binding ability of the protein, which was formed of self-assembled ferritin monomers, with the human transferrin receptor. Among constituent moieties of the ferritin monomer, a moiety incorporated into the monomer may protrude outward after binding of the disease antigen epitope.

[0063] The fusion site of the disease antigen epitope in the ferritin monomer is not limited to a specific position, but may include, for example, between adjacent a-helixes, N-terminus, C-terminus, A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop, D-E loop, between N-terminus and A helix, between E helix and C-terminus, and the inside of the helix or the like.

[0064] The disease antigen epitope may be fused at at least one of adjacent α-helixes. Further, the disease antigen epitope may be fused at the N-terminus or C-terminus of the ferritin monomer. Further, the disease antigen epitope may be fused to the A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop or D-E loop of the ferritin monomer. Further, the disease antigen epitope may be fused between the N-terminus and A helix of the ferritin monomer or between the E helix and C-terminus. Further, the disease antigen epitope may be fused to the inside of at least one of helixes of the ferritin monomers.

[0065] The protein of the present invention is composed of a self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which disease antigen epitopes are fused.

[0066] Ferritin is a self-assembled protein that forms an aggregate by forming an organizational structure or pattern on its own when several monomers are collected, and may form nanoscale proteins without additional manipulation.

[0067] The ferritin monomer to which the disease antigen epitope according to the present invention is fused may also form a self-assembled protein. For example, 24 ferritin monomers can be self-assembled to form spherical particles.

[0068] When the protein of the present invention forms particles, the particle may have a particle diameter of 8 to 50 nm, for example. Specifically, it may be 8 to 50 nm, 8 to 45 nm, 8 to 40 nm, 8 to 35 nm, 8 to 30 nm, 8 to 25 nm, 8 to 20 nm, 8 to 15 nm, etc., but it is not limited thereto.

[0069] The protein of the present invention has binding ability with a transferrin receptor (transferrin receptor 1, TfR) present on the surface of dendritic cells as antigen-presenting cells. Therefore, an antigen with such a fused antigen epitope fused antigen epitope is presented, and the immune system recognizes the antigen so that the immune response can be performed.

[0070] The protein of the present invention may have a binding force (or binding affinity; K) to human transferrin receptor which satisfies the following Equation 1:




(wherein K = [P][T]/[PT], wherein [P] represents a concentration of the protein in an equilibrium state of a binding reaction between the protein and the human transferrin receptor, [T] represents a concentration of the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state, and [PT] represents a concentration of a complex of the protein and the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state).

[0071] With regard to the protein of the present invention, the binding force (K) to the human transferrin receptor may be 125 nM or less, 120 nM or less, 110 nM or less, 100 nM or less, 90 nM or less, 80 nM or less, 70 nM or less, 60 nM or less, 50 nM or less, 40 nM or less, 30 nM or less, 20 nM or less, 10 nM or less, etc. It means that the smaller the concentration in Equation 1, the higher the binding force to the human transferrin receptor.

[0072] With regard to the protein of the present invention, the binding force (K) to the human transferrin receptor may be 1 nM or more, 2 nM or more, 3 nM or more, 4 nM or more, or 5 nM or more.

[0073] The binding force (K) to the human transferrin receptor is measured in an equilibrium state of the binding reaction between the protein of the present invention and the human transferrin receptor. The concentration of the protein of the present invention ([P]), the concentration of the human transferrin receptor ([T]), and the concentration of a complex of the protein of the present invention and the human transferrin receptor ([PT]) in the equilibrium state may be measured by various known methods.

[0074] The binding force (K) to the human transferrin receptor may be measured according to, for example, a Microscale Thermophoresis (MST) method. An MST measuring device may be, for example, Monolith NT.115.

[0075] The concentration in Equation 1 may be obtained by utilizing the following Equations 2 and 3.


(wherein [PT] represents a concentration of a complex of the protein and the human transferrin receptor in an equilibrium state of reaction, Po is an initial concentration of the protein, T0 is an initial concentration of the human transferrin receptor, [P] represents a concentration of the protein in the equilibrium state of reaction, and [T] represents a concentration of the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state of reaction).

(wherein [PT] represents a concentration of a complex of the protein and the human transferrin receptor in an equilibrium state of reaction, Po is an initial concentration of the protein, and X represents a ratio of protein that forms a complex together with the transferrin receptor in the protein).

[0076] The protein of the present invention may be produced in a microorganism to express a sequence encoding the protein.

[0077] As the microorganism, microorganisms known in the art may be used without limitation. For example, it may be E. coli, specifically BL21 (DE3), but it is not limited thereto.

[0078] In the case of producing a protein by a microbial system, the produced protein should be present in a dissolved state in the cytoplasm in order to facilitate separation/purification. In many cases, the produced protein exists in an aggregated state such as an inclusion body. The protein of the present invention has a high rate dissolved in the cytoplasm in the microbial production system. Accordingly, this is easy for separation/purification and use thereof.

[0079] The protein of the present invention may be produced, for example, in a state in which a water-soluble fraction ratio of the total protein is 40% or more in the E. coli system for producing the same. Specifically, the above ratio may be 40% or more, 50% or more, 60% or more, 70% or more, 80% or more, 90% or more, or 95% or more. The upper limit thereof may be, for example, 100%, 99%, 98%, 97%, 96% and the like.

[0080] The protein of the present invention may further include a linker peptide added between the human ferritin heavy chain protein and the disease antigen epitope. The linker peptide is not limited as long as it is a sequence for enhancing surface exposure of a protein by imparting flexibility to the epitope but may have, for example, an amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO: 36 to SEQ ID NO: 38.

[0081] The linker peptide may have a length capable of securing an appropriate space between the disease antigen epitopes. For example, the linker peptide may be a peptide consisting of 1 to 20, 3 to 18, 4 to 15, or 8 to 12 amino acids. By adjusting the length and/or compositions of amino acids in the linker peptide, the spacing and orientation between the disease antigen epitopes may be regulated.

[0082] The present invention provides a pharmaceutical composition for prevention or treatment of cancer, which includes the proteins described above. All of the above descriptions in regard to the proteins may be applied as they are to the protein as an active ingredient of the pharmaceutical composition according to the present application.

[0083] The pharmaceutical composition of the present invention may include a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier. In the present invention, the term "pharmaceutically acceptable carrier" refers to a carrier or diluent that does not significantly irritate an organism and does not impair biological activity and properties of a component to be administered. The pharmaceutically acceptable carrier in the present invention may be used as one component or by mixing one or more of components, including saline, sterile water, Ringer's solution, buffered saline, dextrose solution, maltodextrin solution, glycerol or ethanol. Further, if necessary, other conventional additives such as antioxidants, buffers and bacteriostatic agents may be added and formulated in the form of an injection suitable for injecting into tissues or organs. Further, it may be formulated as an isotonic sterilization solution, or in some cases, a dry preparation (especially a freeze-dried preparation) that may form an injectable solution by adding sterile water or physiological saline thereto. Furthermore, a target organ-specific antibody or other ligands may be used in combination with the carrier so that it can specifically act on the target organ.

[0084] In addition, the composition of the present invention may further include a filler, an excipient, a disintegrant, a binder or a lubricant. Further, the composition of the present invention may be formulated using any method known in the art to allow rapid, sustained or delayed release of the active ingredient after administration to a mammal.

[0085] In one embodiment, the pharmaceutical composition may be an injectable formulation and may be administered intravenously, but it is not limited thereto.

[0086] In the present invention, the term "effective amount" means an amount necessary to delay the onset or progression of a specific disease to be treated or to entirely enhance the same.

[0087] In the present invention, the composition may be administered in a pharmaceutically effective amount. It is obvious to those skilled in the art that an appropriate total daily dose of the pharmaceutical composition may be determined by a practitioner or physician within the range of correct medical judgment.

[0088] For the purposes of the present invention, a specific pharmaceutically effective amount for a specific patient is preferably and differently applied depending upon type and extent of the reaction to be achieved, whether or not other agents are used occasionally, specific compositions, various factors such as an age, body weight, general health conditions, sex or diet of the patient, administration time, administration route and secretion rate of the composition, treatment period, drugs used with or concurrently with the specific composition, and similar factors well known in the medical field.

[0089] In the present invention, if necessary, the pharmaceutical composition may be accompanied by an instruction associated with the packaging in a form directed by a government agency in charge of the manufacture, use and sale of drugs, wherein the instruction represents approval of a private interest agency with respect to the form of a composition or administration to a human or animals, for example, the instruction may be a label approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the prescription of drugs.

[0090] In addition to the above proteins, the pharmaceutical composition of the present invention may further include a ferritin protein ("an immune checkpoint inhibitor") to which molecules capable of binding to an immune checkpoint molecule are fused.

[0091] In order to remove cancer cells and perform immune response, T cells should recognize an antigen of the cancer cells present on an antigen-presenting cell thus to be activated. At this time, the immune checkpoint molecule has a role of being combined with T cells and thus serves to inactivate the same.

[0092] Such an immune checkpoint molecule may include, for example, Her-2/neu, VISTA, 4-1BBL, Galectin-9, Adenosine A2a receptor, CD80, CD86, ICOS, ICOSL, BTLA, OX-40L, CD155, BCL2, MYC, PP2A, BRD1, BRD2, BRD3, BRD4, BRDT, CBP, E2F1, MDM2, MDMX, PPP2CA, PPM1D, STAT3, IDH1, PD1, CTLA4, PD-L1, PD-L2, LAG3, TIM3, TIGIT, BTLA, SLAMF7, 4-1BB, OX-40, ICOS, GITR, ICAM-1, BAFFR, HVEM, LFA-1, LIGHT, NKG2C, SLAMF7, NKp80, LAIR1, 2B4, CD2, CD3, CD16, CD20, CD27, CD28, CD40L, CD48, CD52, EGFR family, AXL, CSF1R, DDR1, DDR2, EPH receptor family, FGFR family, VEGFR family, IGF1R, LTK, PDGFR family, RET, KIT, KRAS, NTRK1, NTRK2, etc.

[0093] The molecule capable of binding to the immune checkpoint molecule may include, for example, a ligand to the immune checkpoint molecule, or a fragment including a binding domain of the ligand for the immune checkpoint molecule.

[0094] The molecule capable of binding to the immune checkpoint molecule may be an antibody to the immune checkpoint molecule or an antigen binding fragment thereof.

[0095] A molecule capable of binding to an immune checkpoint molecule (abbrev. to "immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule") is not limited to a specific length as long as it can be fused to a ferritin monomer. Molecules capable of binding to the immune checkpoint molecule are not limited to a specific length as long as the ferritin monomer does not interfere with self-assembly.

[0096] The molecules capable of binding to immune checkpoint molecules are preferably fused to ferritin monomers so as to be exposed to the protein surface for binding to human transferrin receptors.

[0097] The immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule is fused to a ferritin monomer, and a fusion site thereof is not particularly limited to a specific position, but may include, for example, between adjacent α-helixes, N-terminus, C-terminus, A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop, D-E loop, between N-terminus and A helix, between E helix and C-terminus, and the inside of the helix or the like.

[0098] The immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused to at least one of sites between adjacent α-helixes. Further, the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused at N-terminus or C-terminus of a ferritin monomer. Further, the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused to A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop or D-E loop of the ferritin monomer. Further, the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused between N-terminus and A helix or between E helix and C-terminus of the ferritin monomer. Further, the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused inside of at least one among helixes of the ferritin monomer.

[0099] An immune checkpoint inhibitor should be combined with the immune checkpoint molecule, and therefore, it preferably has a low binding force to a transferrin receptor. The transferrin receptor may be, for example, a human transferrin receptor but it is not limited thereto.

[0100] In order to reduce the binding force of the immune checkpoint inhibitor to the transferrin receptor, the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be fused at a site involved in binding of ferritin to the transferrin receptor.

[0101] Further, in a ferritin protein to which the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule is fused, the ferritin protein may have a mutated site involved in binding to the transferrin receptor.

[0102] There is a site involved in binding to the transferrin receptor in the ferritin monomer, and the ferritin monomer may have a corresponding site mutated to decrease the binding force to the transferrin receptor.

[0103] As a specific example of the case of using the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1, the amino acid selected from the group consisting of 14, 15, 22, 81 and 83 in the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1 may have been substituted with another amino acid. The amino acid to be substituted may be, for example, alanine, glycine, valine, leucine, etc., but it is not limited thereto.

[0104] The present invention provides a method for treatment of cancer, which includes administering the above protein. All of the descriptions in regard to the above protein may be applied as they are to the protein as an active ingredient in the cancer treatment method according to the present application.

[0105] The treatment method of the present invention may include administering the above protein to a subject suffering from cancer.

[0106] The subject suffering from cancer may be an animal with cancer, specifically a mammal with cancer, and more specifically may be a human suffering from cancer.

[0107] The protein may be administered in a therapeutically effective amount.

[0108] In the present invention, the term "administration" means introducing the composition of the present invention to a patient by any suitable method, and a route of administration of the composition of the present invention may include various routes, either oral or parenteral, as long as it can reach the target tissue. Intraperitoneal administration, intravenous administration, intramuscular administration, subcutaneous administration, intradermal administration, oral administration, topical administration, intranasal administration, intrapulmonary administration, or rectal administration may be implemented, but they are not limited thereto.

[0109] The method of the present invention may further include administering a ferritin protein, to which the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule is fused, to the subject described above.

[0110] The immune checkpoint molecule and the molecule capable of binding thereto may be within the above described range, but they are not limited thereto.

[0111] The ferritin protein fused with the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule may be administered simultaneously or sequentially along with a protein formed by self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which a disease antigen epitope is fused.

[0112] In the case of sequential administration, the order of administration is not limited, and the above ferritin protein may be administered before or after administration of the protein formed by self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which the disease antigen epitope is fused.

[0113] Hereinafter, examples will be described in detail in order to describe the present invention in detail.

EXAMPLES


1. Preparation of expression vector for synthesis of candidate protein



[0114] huHF is a spherical protein (12 nm) composed of 24 monomers, wherein each monomer is composed of a total of five (5) α-helixes.The present inventors have acquired a delivery system, in which gp100 peptide was inserted at various sites of huHF, by inserting the gp100 peptide as one of actual tumor antigens at a loop between α-helixes of huHF monomer (AB loop among huHF 5T to 176G; between 45D/46V, BC loop; 92D/93W, CD loop; 126D/127P, DE loop; 162E/163S, based on PDB 3AJO sequence), N-terminus and/or C-terminus through gene cloning (FIGS. 1 and 2). Through the previous study (U.S. Patent No. 10, 206, 987), the present inventors have selected the surface construction of huHF nanoparticles with the best surveillance lymph node targeting efficiency as cancer-specific antigen delivery nanoparticles.

[0115] In this regard, the candidate proteins of Table 1 below were subjected to PCR according to the vector schematic diagram of Table 2 below, such that proteins huHF, huHF-gp100 (SEQ ID NO: 2; melanoma specific antigen), OVA (SEQ ID NO: 3), AH1 (SEQ ID NO: 4) (AB; 45D/46V, BC; 92D/93W, CD; 126D/127P, DE; 162E/163S, N-terminus, C-terminus), huHF-PD1 (SEQ ID NO: 5; active site of PD1 domain), huHF-TPP1 (SEQ ID NO: 6) (AB, CD loop), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (SEQ ID NO: 7) (CD loop, C-terminus) and huHF-smPD1 (SEQ ID NO: 8) particles were prepared. At this time, the OVA was used as an immunospecific antigen. Likewise, AH1 was used as a tumor specific antigen of colorectal cancer cells, and gp100 was used as a tumor specific antigen of melanoma cells. All the prepared plasmid expression vectors were purified on an agarose gel, followed by confirming a sequence thereof through complete DNA sequencing.

[0116] Specifically, PCR products required for preparation of each expression vector were sequentially inserted into the plasmid pT7-7 vector using the primer set in Table 3 below, so as to construct an expression vector capable of expressing each protein. In this case, linker peptides of Table 4 below could be further included.
[TABLE 1]
Sequence No.Candidate protein
2 Gp100
3 Ovalbumin
4 AH1
5 PD1
6 TPP1
7 αPD-L1 HCDR3
8 smPD1 (small PD1 domain)
9 RFP
[TABLE 2]
ProteinExpression vector
huHF NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-HindIII-COOH
[gp100/AH1/OVA ]-huHF loops AB(45D/46V), BC(92D/93W), CD(126D/127P), DE(162E/163S):NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-[gp100(KVPRNQDWL)/OVA(SIINFEKL)/AH1(SPSYVYHQF)] -huHF-HindIII-COOH N-terminus: NH2-NdeI-(His)6-[gp 100(KVPRNQDWL)/OVA(SIINFEKL)/AH1(SPSYVYHQF)]-huHF -HindIII-COOH C-terminus: NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-[gp 100(KVPRNQDWL)/OVA(SIINFEKL)/AH1(SPSYVYHQF)]-HindIII-COOH Between N-terminus and A helix (6S/7Q), the middle of D helix (156R/157K), the middle of E helix (173H/174T), between E helix and C-terminus (178S/179D)NH2-NdeI-(His)6-[gp100(KVPRNQDWL)]-huHF-HindIII-COOH
huHF-PD1 NH2-NdeI-huHF-PD1(22-170)-HindIII-COOH
huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loop) NH2-NdeI-huHF-linker-TPP1-linker-HindIII-COOH
huHF-αPD-L1 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus)  
huHF-smPD1 NH2-NdeI-huHF-smPD1-HindIII-COOH
huHF-RFP NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-Xho1-linker(G3SG3TG3SG3T)-RFP-HindIII-COOH
[TABLE 3]
Sequence No.DesignationInsertion site
10 N-gp100_F N-terminus
11 N-gp100_R
12 AB-gp100_F AB loop
13 AB-gp100_R
14 BC-gp100_F BC loop
15 BC-gp100_R
16 CD-gp100_F CD loop
17 CD-gp100_R
18 DE-gp100_F DE loop
19 DE-gp100_R1
20 DE-gp100_R2
21 DE-gp100_R3
22 C-gp100_F C-terminus
23 C-gp100_R
24 NA-gp100_F_1 Between N-terminus and A-helix
25 NA-gp100_F_2
26 NA-gp100_F_3
27 NA-gp100_R
28 intD-gp100_F The middle of D helix
29 intD-gp100_R_1
30 intD-gp100_R_2
31 intE-gp100_F The middle of E helix
32 intE-gp100_R_1
33 intE-gp100_R_2
34 EC-gp100_F Between E-helix and C-terminus
35 EC-gp100_R
[TABLE 4]
Sequence No.Designation
36 Linker 1
37 Linker2
38 Linker3

2. Biosynthesis of candidate proteins



[0117] E. coli strain BL21(DE3)[F-ompThsdSB(rB-mB-)] was transformed with the above-prepared expression vector, respectively, and ampicillin-resistant transformants were selected. The transformed E. coli was cultured in a flask (250 mL Erlenmeyer flasks, 37 °C, 150 rpm) containing 50 mL of Luria-Bertani (LB) medium (containing 100 mg L-1 ampicillin). When a medium turbidity (O.D600) reached about 0.5-0.7, isopropyl-β-dithiogalactopyranosid (IPTG) (1.0 mM) was injected to induce expression of the recombinant gene.

[0118] After incubating at 20 °C for 16-18 hours, the cultured E. coli was centrifuged at 4,500 rpm for 10 minutes to recover a cell precipitate, followed by suspending the precipitate in 5 ml of a disruption solution (10 mM Tris-HCl buffer, pH 7.5, 10 mM EDTA), and then crushing the same using an ultrasonic crusher (Branson Ultrasonics Corp., Danbury, CT, USA). After crushing, centrifugation was performed at 13,000 rpm for 10 minutes, and the supernatant and insoluble aggregates were separated. The separated supernatant was used for later experiments.

3. Purification of candidate protein and adhesion of fluorescent substance



[0119] The supernatant obtained in Example 2 was purified through the following three-step process. First, 1) Ni2+-NTA affinity chromatography using a combination of nickel and histidine fused to the recombinant protein was conducted, then 2) the recombinant protein was concentrated and a fluorescent substance was adhered through buffer exchange, and lastly, 3) sucrose gradient ultracentrifugation was implemented to separate only the adhered self-assembled protein. Detailed description of each step is as follows.

1) Ni 2+-NTA affinity chromatography



[0120] To purify the recombinant protein, the cultured E. coli was recovered in the same manner as specified above, and the cell pellets were resuspended in 5 mL lysis buffer (pH 8.0, 50 mM sodium phosphate, 300 mM NaCl, 20 mM imidazole), followed by crushing the cells using an ultrasonic crusher. The crushed cell solution was centrifuged at 13,000 rpm for 10 minutes to separate only the supernatant, and then each recombinant protein was separated using a Ni2+-NTA column (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany) (washing buffer: pH 8.0, 50 mM sodium phosphate, 300 mM NaCl, 80 mM imidazole/elution buffer: pH 8.0, 50 mM sodium phosphate, 300 mM NaCl, 200 mM imidazole).

2) Concentration, buffer exchange, and fluorescent substance adhering process



[0121] For imaging, huHF-gp100 particles and huHF-PD1 particles were placed on a column, and 3 ml of recombinant protein eluted through Ni2+-NTA affinity chromatography was put in an ultra centrifugal filter (Amicon Ultra 100K, Millipore, Billerica, MA), followed by centrifugation thereof in the column at 5,000 g until 1 ml of the solution remained. Thereafter, in order to adhere NIR fluorescent substances cy5.5 and fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), the protein particles were subjected to buffer change with sodium bicarbonate (0.1 M, pH 8.5) buffer, followed by adhering the fluorescent substances at room temperature for 12 hours.

3) Sucrose gradient ultra-centrifugation



[0122] Sucrose was added to PBS (2.7 mM KCl, 137 mM NaCl, 2 mM KH2PO4, 10 mM Na2HPO4, pH 7.4) buffer by concentration to prepare solutions containing 40%, 35%, 30%, 25%, 20% sucrose, respectively. Then, the sucrose solutions with different concentrations (45 to 20%) were added by 2 ml to an ultra-centrifugation tube (ultraclear 13.2 ml tube, Beckman) in the order of the concentrations starting from the highest concentration solution, followed by filling the tube with 1 ml of recombinant protein solution present in the prepared buffer for self-assembly, and then carrying out ultra-centrifugation at 35,000 rpm for 16 hours at 4 °C (Ultracentrifuge L-90k, Beckman). After centrifugation, the upper layer (20-25% sucrose solution portion) was carefully pipetted to replace the buffer of the recombinant protein using an ultra centrifugal filter and PBS buffer, as specified in the above item 2).

4. Verification of assembly of protein particles



[0123] For structural analysis of purified recombinant protein for each of the proteins produced in Example 3 (gp100-huHF-loops, huHF-PD1, huHF-TPP1, huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3, huHF-smPD1), the recombinant protein was photographed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). First, an undyed purified protein sample was placed on a carbon-coated copper electron microscope grid and then naturally dried. To obtain stained images of the proteins, electron microscopy grids containing naturally dried samples were incubated with 2% (w/v) aqueous uranyl acetate solution at room temperature for 10 minutes, and then washed 3-4 times with distilled water. As a result of observing the protein image using a Philips Technai 120 kV electron microscope, it was confirmed that each of the particles has formed spherical nanoparticles (FIGS. 3 and 5). Further, through dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurement, each of gp100-huHF-loops, huHF-PD1, huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus) and huHF-smPD1 particles was subjected to measurement of particle diameter in the solution (FIGS. 3 and 5).

5. Determination of binding ability between OVA-huHF-loops protein and TfR, and binding ability between huHF-PD1, huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus) or huHF-smPD1 protein and PD-L1



[0124] In order to prove the efficacy of the huHF transporter to increase immune cell activity, the present research team has determined the binding ability of the purified recombinant protein of each protein (gp100-huHF-loops) produced in Example 3 with the transferrin receptor (TfR) by means of Microscale Thermophoresis (MST) equipment. As a result, it was confirmed that huHF nanoparticles containing no tumor antigen had the most excellent binding ability with TfR, and the binding ability of CD-loop-gp100 nanoparticles with a tumor antigen inserted between CD helixes was second to the best. From the above results, it was indirectly confirmed that the CD-loop-gp100 particles were the best in terms of not interfering with the binding to TfR (FIG. 4).

[0125] Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is a protein on the surface of T-cells and binds to PD-L1, which is expressed on the surface of cancer cells, thereby inducing a decrease in T-cell activity. Therefore, when inhibition of the binding of PD-1 and PD-L1 in T cells is induced using a protein, in which a binding site of PD-1 to bind to PD-L1 expressed on the surface of cancer cell was exposed on the surface, T-cell activity inhibition is reduced whereby it could be expected to increase the efficiency of anticancer immunotherapy. Since it was determined that, rather than exposing active sites of PD-1 and CTLA-4 antibodies, which were intended to develop by the present inventors, on the protein surface, it is more efficient to induce self-assembly of the protein by exposing the binding site of PD-1 that binds to PD-L1 ("PD-L1 binding site of PD-1") on the protein surface in terms of protein expression, the PD-L1 binding site of PD-1 was synthesized in huHF (the binding active site 22G-170V in the PD-1 sequence, PD-L1 targeting peptide TPP1, HCDR3 sequence of PD-L1 antibody, the binding active site of PD-L1 (small PD1 domain)).

[0126] After gene cloning of the nanoparticles was conducted, it was expressed thus to induce particle synthesis through protein self-assembly. This was confirmed through TEM images. Further, in order to confirm whether the actually synthesized huHF-PD1 protein actually binds to the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1), the binding ability (that is, binding affinity; Kd) of the huHF-PD1 protein produced in Example 3 to PD-L1 was measured using an ELISA technique. After binding the recombinant PDL1 protein at a concentration of 2 ug/ml to a 96-well plate for 16-18 hours, the binding affinity of huHF-PD1 protein as well as PD-L1 antibody which is currently used immune antibody therapeutic agents, to PD-L1, respectively, was calculated with Langmuir equation.

[0127] As a result of measuring the binding affinity, Kd value of huHF-PD1 to the recombinant protein PD-L1 was measured to be 327.59 nM, which is higher than 770 nM that is a literature value of PD1-PDL1 binding affinity. Further, the above Kd value was similar to Kd value of PD-L1 and PD-L1 antibody, that is, 255.10 nM. From the above results, it was confirmed that the protein produced by exposing a PD-1 binding domain on the surface of huHF surface has the binding ability with PD-L1 (FIG. 5).

[0128] Further, the binding affinity between the actually synthesized huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus) protein and PD-L1 was also measured by ELISA technique. From the measurement, the binding affinity of the huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop) particles was 71.24 nM and the binding affinity of huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (C-terminus) particles was 38.43 nM, respectively, thereby confirming that these proteins also have the binding ability with PD-L1 (FIG. 5).

[0129] Additionally, in order to confirm whether the actually synthesized huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops) protein actually binds to the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1), the binding affinity (Kd) of the huHF-TPP1 protein produced in Example 3 to PD-L1 was measured by the Microscale Thermophoresis (MST) equipment.

[0130] As a result of the measurement, the Kd value of huHF-TPP1 (AB loop) to PD-L1 was 72.105 nM, the Kd value of huHF-TPP1 (CD loop) to PD-L1 was 115.16 nM, the Kd value of huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loop) was 71.24 nM, and the Kd value of huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (C-terminus) was 38.43 nM (FIG. 5).

6. Dendritic cell uptake experiment of gp100-huHF-loops protein, and verification of colorectal cancer cell-targeting ability of huHF, huHF-PD1, huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops), huHF-aPD-Ll HCDR3 (CD loop, C-terminus), huHF-smPD1 PDL1 antibody therapeutic agents



[0131] Dendritic cell uptake efficiencies of the huHF protein as well as the gp100-huHF-loops proteins produced in Example 3, to which the fluorescent substance was adhered, were compared.

[0132] After each nanoparticle was reacted with the dendritic cells at 300 nM for 30 minutes, a fluorescence signal was measured through a confocal device (LSM 700). In this regard, it was confirmed that the binding ability of the CD-loop-gp100 protein with the tumor antigen inserted between the CD helixes was superior next to that of the protein of huHF itself. From the above results, it was also indirectly confirmed that the CD-loop-gp100 protein was the best in terms of not interfering with the binding to TfR (FIG. 6).

[0133] In order to compare CT26 colorectal cancer and B16F10 melanoma targeting efficiencies of the huHF, huHF-PD1, huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loops, C-terminus) and huHF-smPD1 proteins produced in Example 3, respectively, to which the fluorescent substance was adhered, CT26 colorectal cancer cells and B16F10 melanoma cells were reacted with each protein at a concentration of 300 nM, followed by comparing fluorescence signals to confirm cell uptake efficiency. As a result, as shown in FIGS. 7A to 7C, it was confirmed that each of huHF-PD1 (FIG. 7A), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (CD loops, C-terminus) (FIG. 7B), huHF-TPP1 (AB, CD loops) (FIG. 7C) and huHF-smPD1 (FIG. 7C) proteins was bound to cancer cells and exhibited a florescent signal rather than the control, huHF protein. Further, after treatment with PD-L1 antibody capable of masking PD-L1 expressed on the surface of the cancer cells for 20 minutes, when the huHF protein, huHF-PD1 protein, huHF-aPD-L1 HCDR3 protein and huHF-smPD1 protein were reacted respectively, it was confirmed that neither was combined.

7. NIR image analysis using the prepared proteins



[0134] Based on the above experimental results, after adjusting the fluorescence intensities of the five (5) proteins produced in Example 3 and then injecting the same into 5-week-old nude mice (n=3 per each experimental group), the gp100 antigen-expressing tumor was injected subcutaneously (foot pad injection), followed by analyzing a degree of tumor growth for a predetermined period of time to investigate whether all of the huHF-gp100 loop proteins had good targeting efficiency in lymph nodes. Each particle was injected into the right foot of a mouse by 20 µl, and the experiment was conducted for 1 hour.

[0135] As a result, as shown in FIG. 8, when a cancer-specific antigen peptide was inserted into each of the AB loop, BC loop, CD loop, DE loop, N-terminus and C-terminus, respectively, it was confirmed that nanoparticle delivery efficiency to the lymph nodes in all proteins is good. Further, it was confirmed that tumor growth inhibitory effects are highest in the group injected with gp100-huHF (126 loop) nanoparticles that improved highest the activity of cancer antigen-specific immune cells.

[0136] Further, in order to confirm whether the huHF-PD1 protein binds to PD-L1 exposed on the surface of the actual tumor cells, the huHF protein and huHF-PD1 protein, respectively, to which a cy5.5 fluorescent substance is adhered, were injected in mice with growing CT-26 colorectal cancer cells, followed by comparing the cancer targeting efficiency. At this time, the PD-L1 antibody therapeutic agent that is actually used in clinical practice was used as a control. For 2 days after injection into mice, a particle targeting pattern in the body was observed with a Cy5.5 bandpass emission filter and a special C-mount lens or an IVIS spectrum imaging system (Caliper Life Sciences, Hopkinton, MA) (FIG. 9; in the lower graph at the right side, Y-axis represents a retention time in the body).

[0137] As a result, as shown in FIG. 9, it could be seen that the huHF-PD1 protein had better cancer cell targeting efficiency than the control huHF protein. However, in the above results, although the actual antibody therapeutic agent showed better cancer targeting efficiency and retention time in the body than the huHF-PD1 protein, this is a result obtained since the in vivo retention time of the antibody therapeutic agent is too long, which is directly related to the problem of in vivo immune side effects. Accordingly, it was confirmed that the protein of the present invention has advantages in both side effects and influences of the side effects.

8. Experiment to confirm secretion of specific cytokines through CD 8+ T cell assay



[0138] PBS (buffer) and huHF-gp100 loops protein were prepared by the methods of Examples 1 to 3, followed by boosting the immune response of the immune cells in the lymph nodes through vaccine injection into C57BL/6 mice once a week for a total of 3 weeks. Then, the spleen where the immune cells gathered was excised from each mouse and pulverized. Next, after extracting CD8+ T-cells in which the immune response was specifically induced by gp100 melanoma-specific antigen in the pulverized spleen, the T-cells were reacted with a specific partial antigen peptide of gp100 (KVPRNQDWL), which is known to induce an immune response in vitro, followed by investigating whether gp100-specific cytokines were secreted through FACS assay. As a result, it was confirmed that CD8+ T-cells extracted from the spleen of the mouse injected with 126-gp100-huHF protein have secreted the most cytokine (FIG. 10).

9. Confirmation of MHC-OVA presentation and verification experiment of costimulatory effector expression on dendritic cell surface



[0139] PBS (buffer) and huHF-OVA loops protein were prepared by the methods of Examples 1 to 3, followed by boosting the immune response of the immune cells in the lymph nodes through vaccine injection into C57BL/6 mice once a week for a total of 3 weeks. Then, the spleen where the immune cells gathered was excised from each mouse and pulverized. Next, OVA immune peptide in the pulverized spleen was used to identify a protein that best exposes the peptide on the surface of the dendritic cells (DCs) using an antibody that captures the surface-exposed dendritic cells through MHC-I.

[0140] As a result, it was confirmed that the nanoparticles containing the OVA peptide in the CD-loop could best induce the surface exposure of the peptide on MHC-I, and this is a result disproving that cytotoxic T cells can be most effectively activated in immunotherapy.

[0141] This experiment was carried out through flow cytometry (FACS) (FIG. 11A).

[0142] Further, in order to determine whether the huHF protein itself has influence on improvement of the immune response efficiency, the expression rates of MHC-II, CD40, CD80 and CD86 exposed on the surface of the dendritic cells were compared using the same particles.

[0143] As a result, it was confirmed that costimulatory effectors were expressed in the order of CD, DE, and C-terminus (FIG. 11B).

10. Cancer growth inhibition experiment I (Vaccination; prevention)



[0144] Based on the above experimental results, the huHF, huHF-gp100 loops (10 µM) proteins and samples containing only PBS buffer, respectively, were injected into C57BL/6 mice (n=3) three times at an interval of one week by subcutaneous injection. After passing a period of time for the immune response to occur for 1 week, B16F10 cell line was implanted in each mouse and the growth rate of cancer was observed.

[0145] A size of cancer cells was calculated by the following Equation:



[0146] As a result, it was confirmed that effects of inhibiting tumor growth were exhibited in the order of the huHF-CD-gp100, huHF-DE-gp100, and huHF-gp100-C terminal particles (FIG. 12).

11. Cancer growth inhibition experiment II (Treatment)



[0147] In order to determine whether the huHF-PD1 protein has cancer treatment effects through immune checkpoint suppression compared to the actual antibody therapeutic agents, Balb/c mice having a predetermined size of colon cancer tumors (CT26) were used by the present inventors. Specifically, PBS, PD-L1 antibody, and huHF-PD1 protein were injected intravenously to the mice at an interval of 3 days. As a result of observation, it could be observed that the huHF-PD1 protein showed tumor treatment efficacy similar to the actual antibody therapeutic agents (FIG. 13).

[0148] Next, it was investigated whether the first protein (CD loop-huHF) and the second protein (huHF-PD1) have synergistic effects in actual treatment for inhibition of tumor growth in vivo and combined treatment. To this end, huHF-CD loop-gp100 and huHF-CD loop-AH1 (10 µM) proteins, in which corresponding cancer-specific antigen epitopes (gp100 and AH1) are inserted into the CD-loop showing the best tumor growth inhibitory effects, were injected to the mice by subcutaneous injection at an interval of 3 days. At the same time, huHF-PD1 (5 µM) and PD-L1 antibody therapeutic agent samples as the control were injected intravenously at an interval of 3 days. The experiment using the huHF-CD loop-gp100 protein has adopted C57BL/6 mice with B16F10 melanoma, while the experiment using the huHF-CD loop-AH1 protein has adopted Balb/c mice with CT26 colon cancer. In each experiment, 5 mice per experimental group were used, and a size of cancer cells was calculated by the following equation:





[0149] At this time, the experimental groups used herein are: 1) no treatment group; 2) the first protein treatment group (AH1-huHF and gp100-huHF); 3) the antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (α-PD-L1); 4) the second protein treatment group (huHF-PD1); 5) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the antibody therapeutic agent (AH1-huHF+α-PD-L1 and gp100-huHF+α-PD-L1); and 6) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1 and gp100-huHF+huHF-PD1).

[0150] As a result of the experiment, it was confirmed that the experimental group No. 6 treated with the first protein (CD-loop-gp100 or AH1) and the second protein (huHF-PD1) according to the present invention showed the most excellent tumor treatment effects. Further, the survival rate of each experimental group was also measured (FIG. 14).

12. In vitro immunization experiment to confirm inhibition of cancer growth



[0151] In order to determine whether the huHF-PD1 protein is effective in cancer treatment through immune checkpoint suppression compared to the actual antibody therapeutic agent, PDL1 antibody, the activity response of cells and the cancer cell killing efficiency when the PD-L1 antibody and huHF-PD1 protein react with cancer cells, respectively, were compared by the present inventors. Specifically, after treating colon cancer and melanoma cancer cells with the PDL1 antibody and huHF-PD1 protein, the response of T-cells was observed in vitro. From the observation, it was confirmed that IFN-gamma, a specific cytokine capable of killing cancer cells induced by CD8+ cells, was more detected in the experimental group treated with the huH-PD1 protein, as compared to the experimental group treated with the PD-L1 antibody. Moreover, it was additionally confirmed that the cancer cell death rate was also higher. From the above results, it was predicted that the huHF-PD1 protein would be better in terms of cancer cell treatment efficacy than the PD-L1 antibody (FIGS. 15A, B). In addition, the T-cell activity response was observed in the following experimental groups: 1) no treatment group; 2) the first protein treatment group (AH1-huHF and gp100-huHF); 3) the antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (α-PD-L1); 4) the second protein treatment group (huHF-PD1); 5) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the antibody therapeutic agent (AH1-huHF+α-PD-L1 and gp100-huHF+α-PD-L1); and 6) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1 and gp100-huHF+huHF-PD1). As a result, it was also confirmed that T-cell activity is the most excellent in the experimental group No. 6 (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1 and gp100-huHF+huHF-PD1), which also showed the best result in term of tumor growth inhibition (FIG. 15C).

13. Comparative experiment on immune side effects of current antibody therapeutic agents and huHF-PD1 as an alternative therapeutic agent developed by the present research team



[0152] The present inventors have proved that the huHF-PD1 protein has cancer treatment efficacy through immune checkpoint suppression as compared to PDL1 antibody, which is an actual antibody therapeutic agent. At the same time, it was also demonstrated that the degree of induction of immune side effects when injected in vivo is also reduced. The most significant problem with the current antibody therapeutic agents is immune side effects caused by long-term accumulation in the body when injecting proteins. In this regard, the most representative cytokine causing the above immune side effects is known as IL-17. Accordingly, the present inventors have implemented an IL-17 detection test using the blood samples of experimental group Nos. 1 to 6 described in Example 11.

[0153] As a result, it was confirmed that IL-17 is detected only in the experimental group Nos. 3 and 5 using the antibody therapeutic agent. From the above results, it was confirmed that the protein according to the present invention has lower induction of immune side effects (FIG. 16).

14. Cancer growth inhibition experiment III (Postoperative rechallenge)



[0154] As a result of the cancer growth inhibition experiment in Example 11, it was confirmed whether the first protein (CD loop-huHF) and the second protein (huHF-PD1) actually suppressed tumor growth in vivo and had synergistic effects during combined treatment. Based on the above results, an experiment was implemented to investigate if the cancer recurs even after surgery. At this time, the experimental groups used herein were the same as in Example 11, that is: 1) no treatment group; 2) the first protein treatment group (AH1-huHF); 3) the antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (a-PD-L1); 4) the second protein treatment group (huHF-PD1); 5) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the antibody therapeutic agent (AH1-huHF+α-PD-L1); and 6) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1). Three (3) weeks after it was judged that the tumor grew and the treatment progressed thus to generate tumor-specific immune cells in the body, the tumors of all experimental groups were surgically removed. After that, CT26 colorectal cancer cells were treated again in all experimental groups to observe whether cancer occurred.

[0155] As a result, it was confirmed that the no treatment group 1) has cancer continued to grow, while 6) all mice in the group administered with the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD) have no growth of cancer or the cancer disappearing in a few days.

[0156] In this experiment, Balb/c mice were used. 5 mice per experimental group were used in each experiment, and a size of cancer cells was calculated by the following Equation:




[0157] As a result of the experiment, it was confirmed that the experimental group No. 6 which was treated with the first protein (CD-loop-AH1) and the second protein (huHF-PD1) according to the present invention showed the excellent effects of tumor treatment (FIG. 17).

[0158] Further, an experiment was conducted to determine whether cancer metastases even after surgery. At this time, the experimental groups used therein were the same as in Example 11, that is: 1) no treatment group; 2) the first protein treatment group (AH1-huHF); 3) the antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (α-PD-L1); 4) the second protein treatment group (huHF-PD1); 5) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the antibody therapeutic agent (AH1-huHF+α-PD-L1); and 6) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1). Three (3) weeks after it was judged that the tumor grew and the treatment progressed thus to generate tumor-specific immune cells in the body, the tumors of all experimental groups were surgically removed. After that, CT26 colorectal cancer cells were treated again in all experimental groups to observe whether cancer occurred.

[0159] As a result, it was confirmed that the no treatment group 1) has cancer continued to grow, while 6) all mice in the group administered with the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD) have no growth of cancer or the cancer disappearing in a few days.

[0160] In this experiment, Balb/c mice were used. In each experiment, 5 mice were used per experimental group and whether cancer metastases was determined by extracting the lungs of mice in all of the above experimental groups and counting cancer nodules (FIG. 17).

15. In vitro immunization test II to confirm inhibition of cancer growth



[0161] In the same manner as in Example 12, the experimental groups, that is: (1) no treatment group; 2) the first protein treatment group (AH1-huHF and gp100-huHF); 3) the antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (α-PD-L1); 4) the second protein treatment group (huHF-PD1); 5) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the antibody therapeutic agent (AH1-huHF+α-PD-L1 and gp100-huHF+α-PD-L1); and 6) the group administered with a combination of the first protein and the second protein (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1 and gp100-huHF+huHF-PD1) were observed to investigate T-cell activity responses.

[0162] As a result, even after tumor rechallenge, it was confirmed again that T-cell activity was the most excellent in the experimental group No. 6 (AH1-huHF+huHF-PD1 and gp100-huHF+huHF-PD1), which showed the best result of tumor growth inhibition in Example 12 (FIG. 18).

16. Preparation of protein to which disease antigen epitopes are fused at various sites of ferritin monomers



[0163] Structures in which gp100 is fused between N-terminus and A helix of ferritin, gp100 is fused between E helix and C-terminus, gp100 is fused inside D helix, and gp100 is fused inside E helix, respectively, were prepared.

[0164] The vectors illustrated in FIGS. 19 to 22 and described in Table 2 were prepared according to the method of Example 1. Herein, the primer set of Table 3 was used.

[0165] The protein was synthesized according to the method of Example 2, and soluble and insoluble portions were confirmed according to the method of Example 18 described below. Further, it was confirmed that a protein was self-assembled according to the method of Example 4.

17. Measurement of binding force to transferrin



[0166] The binding force (A) of the prepared protein to transferrin was measured according to the following method.

[0167] First, 100 µl of dye that specifically binds to a hexa-His tag (RED-tris-NTA 2nd Generation Dye) was prepared at a concentration of 50 nM, along with 100 µl of the produced protein at a concentration of 200 nM, followed by mixing the same and incubating at room temperature for 30 minutes. The incubated product was centrifuged at 13000 rpm for 10 minutes at 4 °C by a centrifuge, thus to separate the supernatant and obtain a dye-labeled protein.

[0168] Then, 25 µl of 9.65 µM transferrin receptor was added to the 1st PCR tube; 10 µl of PBS-T (PBS + 0.5% tween 20) buffer was added to 2nd to 16th PCR tubes; 10 µl of transferrin in the 1st PCR tube was transferred to the 2nd PCR tube; and 10 µl was again transferred from the 2nd PCR tube to the 3rd PCR tube. Likewise, this procedure was continued up to the 16th tube thus to perform 1/2 dilution in a sequential order so that each of the 2nd to 16th PCR tubes becomes 20 µl.

[0169] Thereafter, 10 µl of the dye-labeled protein was added to each PCR tube, and the reaction was performed at room temperature for 1 hour.

[0170] Subsequently, the reaction solution of each tube was put into the capillary of a microscale thermophoresis device to determine homogeneous fluorescence intensity Fcold without laser radiation. Further, the microscale thermophoresis device (Monolith NT.115) was set to provide 40% MST power and LED power such that the acquired fluorescence intensity is within a range of 10,000 to 15,000, while irradiating each capillary with a laser for 30 seconds thus to obtain fluorescence intensity Fhot in a heated state.

[0171] Thereafter, normalized fluorescence Fnorm (‰) (= (Fhot/Fcold) × 1000) in each capillary was obtained, from which the capillary in a reaction equilibrium state ("steady state") is found, followed by obtaining a concentration expressed by Equation 1.
[TABLE 5]
TSA insertion siteTfRgp100
N Human 18.484±1.13
Mouse 48.323±2.86
AB Human 29.663±0.71
Mouse 40.787±2.85
BC Human 14.043±3.27
Mouse 48.021±3.37
CD Human 4.8943±2.98
Mouse 15.94±2.52
DE Human 9.7809±1.97
Mouse 30.485±1.11
C Human 5.6533±1.33
Mouse 34.795±0.98
EC Human 5.6768±1.29
Din Human 29.288±3.71
Ein Human 6.276±1.76
[TABLE 6]
TSA insertion siteTfRAH1
N Human 84.648±0.83
AB Human 10.933±0.32
BC Human 106.64±0.74
CD Human 3.4503±3.49
DE Human 6.1146±4.11
C Human 5.3748±1.25
TABLE 7]
TSA insertion siteTfRPD1
C Human 265.84±0.98
Mouse 667.51±2.34
[TABLE 8]
SampleTfRBinding force
Model antigen RFP-huHF(TSA insertion site C) Human 127.23±0.71
WT huHF Human 2.498±1.77
Mouse 7.59±2.72

18. Determination of the proportion of water-soluble fraction of protein



[0172] Various expression vectors based on pT7-7 were used for transformation of BL21 (DE3) competent cells. A single colony was inoculated into LB liquid medium (50 mL) added with 100 mg/L of ampicillin, and cultured in a shaking incubator at 37 °C and 130 rpm. When turbidity (turbidity/optical density at 600 nm) reached 0.5, the expression of a target protein was induced through 1 mM IPTG administration. Then, after incubation at 20 °C for 12 to 16 hours, the cells in the culture medium were spun-down through centrifugation (13000 rpm, 10 minutes), and the cell pellets were collected and resuspended in 10 mM Tris-Hcl buffer (pH 7.4). The resuspended cells were crushed using a Branson Sonifier (Branson Ultrasonics Corp., Danbury, CT). After sonication, the supernatant containing a soluble protein and aggregates containing an insoluble protein were separated by centrifugation (13000 rpm, 10 minutes). The separates soluble and insoluble protein fractions were subjected to analysis of solubility through SDS-PAGE. That is, target protein bands stained with Coomassie were scanned with a densitometer (Duoscan T1200, Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA), followed by quantifying a ratio of the water-soluble fraction. Specifically, using the scanned SDS-PAGE gel image, a band thickness and a background value were set by means of 'Quantity One' program and 'Volume Rect. Tool', and then, a sum of the soluble and insoluble protein fractions was set to 100% using the 'Volume Analysis Report', followed by quantification of the solubility.
[TABLE 9]
ProteinWater-soluble fraction ratio (%)ProteinWater-soluble fraction ratio (%)
N-OVA-huHF 89.35 N-gp100-huHF 92.48
AB-OVA-huHF 93.81 AB-gp100-huHF 93.86
BC-OVA-huHF 95.74 BC-gp100-huHF 94.43
CD-OVA-huHF 98.73 CD-gp100-huHF 95.57
DE-OVA-huHF 96.82 DE-gp100-huHF 95.39
C-OVA-huHF 96.62 C-gp100-huHF 96.40
N-AH1-huHF 81.74 NA-gp100-huHF 67.22
AB-AH1-huHF 94.63 EC-gp100-huHF 96.27
BC-AH1-huHF 92.53 Din-gp100-huHF 48.21
CD-AH1-huHF 98.47 Ein-gp100-huHF 93.00
DE-AH1-huHF 98.71 PD1-huHF 74.25
C-AH1-huHF 87.90 RFP-huHF 98.31

19. Use of molecules that bind to immune checkpoint molecules



[0173] (1) After producing a protein in which mouse small PD1 (SEQ ID NO: 8) was fused at the C-terminus of huHF, the efficacy of the protein was investigated (FIG. 23).

[0174] The protein was synthesized according to the method of Example 2, and the soluble and insoluble portions were confirmed according to the method of Example 19. Further, it was confirmed that the protein is self-assembled according to the method of Example 4.

[0175] The binding force of the produced protein to the transferrin receptor was measured according to the method of Example 17, and a concentration represented by Equation 1 was found to be 44.649±1.34 nM.

[0176] The tumor inhibitory ability of the protein was evaluated according to the method of Example 11.

[0177] Specifically, PBS, PD-L1 antibody, huHF-PD1, and huHF-msmPD1 proteins, respectively, were injected intravenously to Balb/c mice having a predetermined size of colon cancer tumors (CT26) at an interval of 3 days. As a result of observation, it could be seen that the huHF-msmPD1 protein showed tumor treatment efficacy similar to the antibody therapeutic agents. The experiment has used 3 mice per experimental group, and a size of cancer cells was calculated by the following Equation:





[0178] At this time, the experimental groups used herein are: 1) a PBS group, 2) an antibody therapeutic agent treatment group (α-PD-L1), 3) a first protein treatment group (huHF-PD1), and 4) a second protein treatment group (huHF-msmPD1).

[0179] The results are shown in FIG. 24.

[0180] Referring to FIG. 24, it is possible to confirm excellent anticancer activity when using the ferritin in which the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule is fused.

[0181] (2) After producing a protein in which hsmPD1 was fused at the C-terminus of huHF, the efficacy of the protein was investigated.

[0182] huHF is a substitution of some amino acids at the binding site (existing in the BC loop) with transferrin, and the protein in which amino acids 81 and 83 in the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1 are substituted with alanine was used.

[0183] This was obtained by mixing the forward primer (SEQ ID NO: 39), 10 µM of the reverse primer (SEQ ID NO: 40), and huHF-hsmPD1 as a template DNA in Q5 Hot Start High-Fidelity 2X Master Mix, followed by gene mutation. Then, a protein was obtained according to the method of Example 2.

[0184] As hsmPD1, the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 41 was used.

[0185] The binding force of the produced protein to h-PD-L1 and m-PD-L1 was measured according to the method of Example 17. As a result, it was found that the binding force to h-PD-L1 is 13.417±1.97 nM, and the binding force to m-PD-L1 is 177.14±3.32 nM.

[0186] (3) After producing a protein in which molecules binding to immune checkpoint molecules PD-L1 and TIGIT were fused to ferritin, and the efficacy of the protein was investigated.

[0187] As the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule, HCDR3 sequence of the antibody was used, and the sequence used herein is shown in Table 10 below.
[TABLE 10]
Sequence No.Designation
42 huHF-αPD-L1
43 huHF-αTIGIT
[TABLE 11]
ProteinExpression vector
huHF-PD-L1-TIGIT dual blocker BC(92D/93W): NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-[αTIGIT HCDR3]-huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
[TABLE 12]
Sequence No.DesignationInsertion site
44 BC_α_PD-L1_F BC loop
45 BC_α_PD-L1_R
46 C_α_TIGIT F C-terminus
47 C_α_TIGIT R


[0188] The vector of Table 8 was prepared according to the method of Example 1, and the primer set of Table 9 was used. The protein was synthesized according to the method of Example 2. The tumor suppressing ability of the protein was determined by subcutaneous inoculation of a colon cancer cell line (CT26) into BALB/c mice and injecting the protein according to the schedule of FIG. 25, followed by evaluation according to the method of Example 11 (FIG. 26).

[0189] Specifically, PBS, PD-L1 antibody, TIGIT antibody, and huHF-PD-LI-TIGIT dual blocker proteins were injected intravenously to Balb/c mice having a predetermined size of colon cancer tumors (CT26) at an interval of 3 days. As a result of observation, it could be seen that the huHF-PD-LI-TIGIT dual blocker protein showed tumor treatment efficacy similar to the antibody therapeutic agents. 4 mice per experimental group were used in each experiment, and a size of cancer cells was calculated by the following equation:



[0190] At this time, the experimental groups used herein are: 1) a PBS group, 2) an antibody therapeutic agent combined treatment group (α-PD-L1, α-TIGIT), and 3) a protein treatment group (huHF-PD-L1-TIGIT dual blocker).

[0191] Further, tumor tissues were removed for each treatment group and the weight thereof was measured, and the results are shown in FIG. 27. From the results, it is possible to confirm the excellent anticancer efficacy of the protein in which the molecules binding to PD-L1 and TIGIT are fused.

[0192] (4) Analysis of the efficiency according to the fusion site of the immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule to the ferritin monomer

[0193] A protein in which α-PD-L1 HCDR3 is fused at different sites of a ferritin monomer was produced, followed by investigating the tumor suppression ability.

[0194] The protein in which α-PD-L1 HCDR3 is fused at the AB loop, BC loop, CD loop, DE loop, and C-terminus was produced (AB loop among huHF 5T to 176G; between 45D/46V, BC loop; 92D/93W, CD loop; 126D/127P, DE loop; 162E/163S, based on PDB 3AJO sequence). This was produced in the same manner as in Examples 1 and 2, except that the sequence of Table 10 above was used.

[0195] The ability of the prepared protein to target colorectal cancer cells was confirmed by the method of Example 6.

[0196] Specifically, in order to compare the efficiency of FITC fluorescent substance-adhered huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (AB, BC, CD, DE loops, C-terminus) proteins to target CT26 colorectal cancer, respectively, CT26 colorectal cancer cells were reacted with each of the proteins at a concentration of 300 nM, followed by comparing the fluorescence signals to confirm the cell uptake efficiency. It was confirmed that the huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 proteins (AB, BC, CD, DE loops, C-terminus) were bonded to the cancer cells and showed fluorescent signals rather than the control huHF protein.

[0197] The results are shown in FIG. 28, and the relative fluorescence intensity thereof is shown in FIG. 29.

[0198] As a result, it was confirmed that, regardless of the fusion site, a stronger targeting ability was exhibited than the huHF protein.

20. Use of antibody CDR as an immune checkpoint molecule-binding molecule


(1) Construction of expression vector for protein production



[0199] The sequence of Table 13 below was used, PCR was implemented according to the vector schematic diagrams of FIGS. 29 to 36 and Table 14 below, and huHF-αPD1 HCDR3 (C-terminus), huHF-αCTLA4 HCDR3 (C-terminus), huHF αTIGIT HCDR3 (C-terminus), huHF-αLAG3 HCDR3 (C-terminus), huHF-αTIM3 HCDR3 (C-terminus), huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3 (AB loop)-aTIGIT HCDR3 (C-terminus) (dual blocker) were prepared. All the prepared plasmid expression vectors were purified on an agarose gel, and then the sequence was confirmed through complete DNA sequencing.

[0200] Specifically, using the primer sets in Table 15, PCR products required for preparation of each expression vector were sequentially inserted into the plasmid pT7-7 vector to construct an expression vector capable of expressing nanoparticles of each protein.
[TABLE 13]
Sequence No.Designation
48 huHF-αPD-L1
49 huHF-αPD1
50 huHF-αCTLA4
51 huHF-αLAG3
52 huHF-αTIM3
53 huHF αTIGIT
[TABLE 14]
ProteinExpression vector
huHF-αPD-L1 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αPD-L1 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
huHF-αPD1 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αPD1 HCDR3 -HindIII-COOH
huHF -αCTLA4 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αCTLA4 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
huHF -αLAG3 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αLAG3 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
huHF -αTIM3 NH2-NdeI-huHF-αTIM3 HCDR3 -HindIII-COOH
huHF-aTIGIT NH2-NdeI-huHF-αTIGIT HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
huHF-PD-L1-TIGIT dual blocker BC(92D/93W): NH2-NdeI-(His)6-huHF-[aTIGIT HCDR3]-huHF- αPD-L1 HCDR3-HindIII-COOH
[TABLE 15]
Sequence No.DesignationInsertion site
54 α_PD-L1_F C-terminus
55 α_PD-L1_R
56 α_PD1_F C-terminus
57 α_PD1_R
58 α_CTLA4_F C-terminus
59 α_CTLA4_R
60 α_LAG3_F C-terminus
61 α_LAG3-R
62 α_TIM3_F C-terminus
63 α_TIM3 R
64 α_TIGIT_F C-terminus
65 α_TIGIT_R
66 BC_α_PD-L1_F BC loop
67 BC_α_PD-L1_R

(2) Verification of protein synthesis, purification and assembly



[0201] Proteins were produced and water-soluble fractions were confirmed in the same manner as in Examples 2 to 4. Further, it was confirmed in the same manner as in Example 5 whether or not spherical nanoparticles were formed (FIGS. 29 to 36).

(3) Measurement of binding force to antigen



[0202] The binding force to an antigen was measured in the same manner as in Example 6, except that the antigen for each antibody was used.

[0203] The binding force of the antibody is shown in Table 16, and the binding force of each of the proteins in the example is shown in Tables 17 and 18. Referring to these tables, it can be seen that the proteins of the examples exhibit excellent binding ability with human antigens.
[TABLE 16]
Human AbKd (nM)Catalog #
αPD-L1 5.8227±0.52 10084-MM02(Sino biological)
αPD1 9.2096±1 MBS154625 (Mybiosource)
αCTLA4 3.4228±1.81 11159-MM06(Sino biological)
αTIM3 7.9993±1.01 MBS4156568(Mybiosource)
αTIGIT 10.32±1.27 MBS 154627(Mybiosource)
[TABLE 17]
Samplemurine IC molecule(standard)Kd(nM)
huHF-αPD-L1 PD-L1 3.1692±2.56
huHF-αPD1 PD1 87.889±2.47
huHF -αCTLA4 CTLA4 17.513±0.462
huHF -αLAG3 LAG3 37.817±1.82
huHF -αTIM3 TIM3 7.0831±1.64
huHF-aTIGIT TIGIT 3.9997±2.29
huHF-α PD-L1-αTIGIT PD-L1 4.9956±2.79
TIGIT 4.7343±2.52
[TABLE 18]
Samplehuman IC molecule(standard)Kd(nM)
huHF-αPD-L1 PD-L1 10.708±4.52
huHF-αPD1 PD1 17.776±4.38
huHF-αCTLA4 CTLA4 10.167±3.11
huHF-αLAG3 LAG3 18.498±3.17
huHF-αTIM3 TIM3 13.03±4.21
huHF-aTIGIT TIGIT 7.1276±2.16
huHF-αPD-L1- PD-L1 3.5605±1.07
αTIGIT TIGIT 6.6423±3.46



































Claims

1. A protein formed by self-assembly of ferritin monomers to which disease antigen epitopes are fused, wherein a binding force (K) to a human transferrin receptor satisfies the following Equation 1:

(wherein K = [P][T]/[PT], wherein [P] represents a concentration of the protein in an equilibrium state of a binding reaction between the protein and the human transferrin receptor, [T] represents a concentration of the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state, and [PT] represents a concentration of a complex of the protein and the human transferrin receptor in the equilibrium state).
 
2. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the protein has K ≤ 100 nM.
 
3. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the protein has K ≤ 50 nM.
 
4. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is any one selected from the group consisting of gp100, MART-1, Melna-A, MAGE-A3, MAGE-C2, Mammaglobin-A, proteinsase-3, mucin-1, HPV E6, LMP2, PSMA, GD2, hTERT, PAP, ERG, NA17, ALK, GM3, EPhA2, NA17-A, TRP-1, TRP-2, NY-ESO-1, CEA, CA 125, AFP, Survivin, AH1, ras, G17DT, MUC1, Her-2/neu, E75, p53, PSA, HCG, PRAME, WT1, URLC10, VEGFR1, VEGFR2, E7, Tyrosinase peptide, B16F10, EL4 and neoantigens.
 
5. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the ferritin is a human ferritin heavy chain.
 
6. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the protein has a spherical shape in which 24 ferritin monomers are self-assembled.
 
7. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is fused to at least one of sites between adjacent α-helixes of the ferritin monomer.
 
8. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is fused at N-terminus or C-terminus of the ferritin monomer.
 
9. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is fused to A-B loop, B-C loop, C-D loop or D-E loop of the ferritin monomer.
 
10. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is fused between N-terminus and A helix or between E helix and C-terminus of the ferritin monomer.
 
11. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is fused inside at least one of the helixes of the ferritin monomer.
 
12. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope has an amino acid length of 25aa or less.
 
13. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the protein contains a water-soluble fraction which is present in a ratio of 40% or more in an E. coli production system.
 
14. The protein according to claim 1, wherein the disease antigen epitope is any one selected from the group consisting of brain cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, uterine cancer, vascular tumor, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, melanoma, glioma, neuroblastoma, sarcoma, laryngeal cancer, parotid carcinoma, biliary tract cancer, thyroid cancer, actinic keratosis, acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, adenocarcinoma, adenoma, glandular squamous cell carcinoma, anal duct cancer, anal cancer, anal rectal cancer, astrocytoma, large vaginal gland carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, biliary cancer, bone cancer, bone marrow cancer, bronchial cancer, bronchial gland carcinoma, carcinoid, bile duct carcinoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, clear cell carcinoma, connective tissue cancer, cyst adenoma, digestive system cancer, duodenal cancer, endocrine system cancer, endoderm sinus tumor, endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial adenocarcinoma, endothelial cell carcinoma, ventricular cell, epithelial cell cancer, orbital cancer, focal nodular hyperproliferation, gallbladder cancer, flank cancer, gastric basal cancer, gastrinoma, glioblastoma, glucagonoma, heart cancer, hemangioblastoma, hemangioendothelioma, hemangioma, hepatoadenoma, hepatic adenoma, hepatobiliary cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, ileal cancer, insulinoma, intraepithelial neoplasm, intraepithelial squamous cell neoplasm, intrahepatic biliary cancer, invasive squamous cell carcinoma, jejunal cancer, joint cancer, pelvic cancer, giant cell carcinoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, malignant mesothelioma, mesothelioma, medullary epithelial carcinoma, meningeal cancer, mesothelial cancer, metastatic carcinoma, oral cancer, mucosal epithelial carcinoma, multiple myeloma, muscle cancer, nasal duct cancer, nervous system cancer, non-epithelial skin cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chondrocyte carcinoma, oligodendrocyte cancer, oral cancer, osteosarcoma, papillary serous adenocarcinoma, penile cancer, pharyngeal cancer, pituitary tumor, plasmacytoma, sarcoma, pulmonary blastoma, rectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, respiratory cancer, retinoblastoma, serous carcinoma, sinus cancer, skin cancer, small cell carcinoma, small intestine cancer, smooth muscle cancer, soft tissue cancer, somatostatin-secreting tumor, spinal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, striatal muscle cancer, subcutaneous cell carcinoma, T cell leukemia, tongue cancer, ureteral cancer, urethral cancer, cervical cancer, uterine trunk cancer, vaginal cancer, VIPoma, genital cancer, hyperdifferentiated carcinoma and Wilm's tumor.
 
15. A pharmaceutical composition for prevention or treatment of cancer, comprising the protein according to any one of claims 1 to 14.
 
16. The pharmaceutical composition according to claim 15, wherein the cancer is any one selected from the group consisting of melanoma, lung cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, glioblastoma, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, renal cell cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, metastatic cancer, prostate cancer, gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancer.
 
17. The pharmaceutical composition according to claim 15, wherein the pharmaceutical composition is an injectable formulation.
 
18. The pharmaceutical composition according to claim 15, wherein the pharmaceutical composition is administered through intraperitoneal, intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous, intradermal, oral, topical, intranasal, pulmonary or rectal administration.
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description