Member Spotlight: Q&A with KSQ Therapeutics

Jun 04, 2024

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and its efforts in advancing the life sciences industry and supporting the patients we serve. In June, we profile KSQ Therapeutics and speak with Qasim Rizvi, MD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer at KSQ. Qasim Rizvi is a trained surgeon and highly accomplished health care executive with broad experience in the biopharmaceuticals industry. He has a distinguished track record of innovation and operational excellence, coupled with a strong commitment to collaboration and teambuilding. Prior to joining KSQ, Dr. Rizvi was senior vice president of operations & chief commercial officer at Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals. Earlier, Dr. Rizvi held positions with Genentech and Roche where he worked extensively in the oncology space and launched numerous successful new cancer therapies.

A headshot of Qasim Rizvi. He is wearing a blue checkered blazer, with an unbuttoned blue oxford style shirt, and glasses.
Qasim Rizvi, MD, MBA

KSQ Therapeutics is advancing a pipeline of novel drug candidates to treat cancer across multiple drug modalities, including targeted therapies, adoptive cell therapies, and immunotherapies. KSQ’s proprietary CRISPRomics® discovery engine enables genome-scale insights driving novel therapeutic discovery. For more information, please visit the company’s website at

Tell us about KSQ Therapeutics – your origin story, mission, and science.

KSQ was founded on the premise that genome-scale understanding of biology could enable breakthrough targets and medicines. From the outset, our goal was to leverage our CRISPRomics® discovery platform to systematically decode the genome to identify optimal gene targets for cancer and immune cells.

Our proprietary platform industrialized and scaled our ability to perform genome-wide functional CRISPR screens in disease models, decoding the therapeutic nodes of intervention. We began by mapping the target space for the discovery of new cancer targets by running genome-wide CRISPR screens across hundreds of cancer cell models. We then set our platform on finding targets and target combinations in various immune cell types including T cells, NK cells and Tregs for the discovery of novel IO and autoimmune therapies. We identified multiple high-value targets using this approach, which established our current pipeline and served as the basis for multiple pharma partnerships.

What impact does KSQ expect to have on patients?

Through our pipeline and partnered programs we hope to create a therapeutic paradigm shift and advance the standard of care – starting with the treatment of solid tumors.

We know TIL can work and have shown potential in certain settings. We believe our eTIL® programs can significantly improve on unmodified TIL. And we have demonstrated transformational tumor-killing abilities in preclinical tumor models refractory to all other interventions.

We are advancing two eTIL® programs, KSQ-001EX, a single-edit eTIL® program with the SOCS1 gene inactivated, and KSQ-004EX, which is a dual edit program with both the SOCS1 and Regnase-1 genes inactivated. Using our immune CRISPRomics® platform, these genes were identified as the top targets and target combination for enhancing the ability of T cells to kill tumor cells in preclinical models.

Other potential benefits that eTIL® programs may offer are the possibility of lower dosing and reduced patient conditioning, potentially improving the patient experience. We are excited to see what these eTIL® programs can do for patients.

What is the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today? How can it be addressed?

There are several challenges facing the industry. Scaling a personalized cell therapy has been a particularly difficult and longstanding challenge. Many lessons have been learned and the level of expertise in the field has grown tremendously. We anticipated this challenge proactively, and through our strategic collaboration with CTMC we have been able to develop a highly robust proprietary manufacturing process, scaled it across multiple different tumor types and enabled the process using core biopsy as starting material. This process will carry us through clinical studies and sets a strong foundation for commercial production.

Specific to the solid tumor space, tumor antigen heterogeneity within and between patients and the immunosuppressive solid tumor microenvironment have been incredibly hard problems to solve with both checkpoint inhibitors and current cell therapy approaches. This is why we are so excited about our eTIL® programs. By taking a patient’s own tumor infiltrating T cells, which can recognize and kill cancer cells, and then optimizing their functionality through CRISPR/Cas9 editing, we could solve for heterogeneity and overcome the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment problems and hopefully drive durable clinical responses.

What has the experience of partnering with large pharma been like for KSQ?

We have had the good fortune of working with three industry-leading partners in Roche, Takeda, and ONO Pharmaceutical Co. Each partnership has been an incredible learning experience. Partnering with industry leaders increases the probability of success of the high value targets we identified, which ultimately is best for patients in need of better treatment options. And of course, these partnerships have given us tremendous financial flexibility and allow us to focus on advancing our internal eTIL® programs.

Why is Massachusetts the right place to enable success?

Massachusetts, in particular the Greater Boston area, is one of the (if not the) best biotech hubs in the country. The wealth of talent, academic firepower, innovative industry investors and the sheer number of companies in the area are unmatched. It’s also home to some of the country’s best hospitals. In addition, we are proud to benefit from being part of the ecosystem of Cambridge-based Flagship Pioneering. When you put all of that together it’s a great recipe for success.

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