MAIA Biotechnology’s Unique Telomere Targeting Agent Currently In Clinical Development Shows Promise For The Multi-Billion Dollar Cancer Therapy Market

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By Kyle Anthony, Benzinga

MAIA Biotechnology (AMEX: MAIA) is a cutting-edge biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing innovative therapies for cancer treatment. The companys mission is to discover, develop and deliver transformative cancer therapies that improve patients' lives worldwide. MAIA Biotechnology envisions a future where cancer is manageable and patients can live longer, healthier lives. The firm is at the forefront of revolutionizing oncology, leveraging advanced scientific research and technological advancements to drive its progress, with the goal of bringing treatments that target cancer's replication mechanism in a more efficacious and less harmful manner than traditional therapies.

Company Background

Founded in August 2018 and headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, MAIA Biotechnology is led by an experienced management team and supported by scientific advisors with extensive drug development experience who are committed to advancing promising agents into human clinical trials. MAIA Biotechnology specializes in telomere-targeting therapies for cancer treatment. As such, the firms current product focus is the development of first-in-class drugs that target proteins that control how cancer cells grow, divide and spread.

MAIA Biotechnology's pipeline includes several promising candidates in various stages of development, but its premier product offering is THIO (6-thio-2-deoxyguanosine), a first-in-class telomere-targeting agent designed to selectively kill telomerase-positive cancer cells, which are present in most human cancers.

The Role Of Telomeres In Cancer

Telomeres play a crucial role in cellular aging and cancer development. Research published by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute explains that cancer cells often avoid senescence or cell death by rebuilding and maintaining their telomeres despite repeated cell divisions. This is possible because the cancer cells activate an enzyme called telomerase, which adds genetic units to the telomeres to prevent them from shortening to the point of causing cell death. As a result, cancer cells essentially become immortal. Telomerase is silenced in most normal cells but is active in an estimated 85% to 95% of human cancer cells.

Since telomerase is active in cancer cells but not normal cells, it is seen as a promising target for cancer therapy. Due to telomerase inhibition, activity or expression, telomere-targeting drugs might kill tumor cells by allowing telomeres to shrink or by provoking apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death.

By incorporating into telomeres, THIO disrupts their function, leading to cancer cell death. This approach has shown promising preclinical results and has been undergoing clinical trials.

Product Development Pipeline

THIO is MAIA Biotechnologys most advanced product offering, which has shown positive efficacy findings in treating advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in clinical trials. The ongoing clinical trial is testing the hypothesis that lower doses of THIO administered before immune checkpoint inhibitor Libtayo treatment (i.e., stimulation of the immune system to attack cancer cells) would enhance and prolong responses in subjects with advanced NSCLC who did not respond or progress after first-line treatment with a checkpoint inhibitor, a type of drug that blocks proteins called checkpoints that are made by some types of immune system cells such as T cells and some cancer cells. These checkpoints help keep immune responses from being too strong and sometimes can keep T cells from killing cancer cells.

The clinical trial's positive results support THIO's tolerability and safety as an anticancer therapy and a priming immune activator. Treatment with THIO sequenced with Libtayo treatment was found to be well-tolerated in a heavily pre-treated population thus far.

MAIA Biotechnology is also researching other drug treatments, using its expertise in telomere-targeting agents as a foundation. The companys second-generation program aims to discover new compounds with potentially improved specificity toward cancer cells relative to normal cells and potentially increased anticancer activity. This program will allow MAIA Biotechnology to strengthen its patent portfolio over time, which already has five issued patents and 29 applications pending worldwide.

Market Potential and Industry Impact

Research published by Coherent Market Insights estimates the cancer therapy market will be worth $205.10 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach $466.21 billion by 2031. The driving factors behind this growth are the rising occurrence of cancer worldwide and the increasing demand for cancer treatment.

As such, MAIA Biotechnologys THIO addresses a large and growing market. As outlined in their most recent corporate presentation, lung and colon cancer are the first and second most prevalent cancer types globally, respectively, and treating them specifically would generate billions in sales. Given the current opportunity, MAIA Biotechnology will continue to protect its intellectual property while expanding its patent portfolio. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted a third orphan drug designation (ODD) to THIO as a treatment for glioblastoma; the drug also holds ODDs for hepatocellular carcinoma and small-cell lung cancer. The glioblastoma market is expected to grow from $2.2 billion to $3.2 billion globally in the next three years.

The FDAs ODD program provides multiple incentives to make orphan drug development more financially feasible for companies. These include up to seven years of market exclusivity for the approved orphan drug, up to 20 years of 25% federal tax credit for expenses incurred in conducting clinical research within the U.S., and waiver of Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) fees for orphan drugs, a value of approximately $2.9 million in 2021.


MAIA Biotechnologys approach to cancer treatment differentiates it from its peers, potentially placing the company in a unique market position. As incidences of cancer continue to rise globally, drug treatment options, such as THIO, will likely rise in demand. As such, the benefit that MAIA Biotechnology provides and the value proposition the firm espouses will likely continue to have industry resonance.

Featured photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.

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