London, UK and Houston, TX – November 10, 2016 – Cell Medica, a leader in cellular immunotherapy for cancer, has expanded its partnership with Baylor College of Medicine (‘Baylor’) to develop an off-the-shelf allogeneic cell therapy, taking advantage of the unique aspects of invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells.
Cellular immunotherapy offers great promise in treating cancer but may be limited in application if products require individual preparation for each new patient. Most cell-based immunotherapies utilize T cells which are naturally programmed to kill malignant cancer cells and can be further engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or modified T cell receptors to improve their use for treating cancer. As an off-the-shelf product, however, allogeneic T cells derived from healthy donors carry the risk of recognizing the patient’s body as foreign, which can cause a serious side effect called graft versus host disease (GvHD).
Baylor and Cell Medica plan to overcome this problem by developing off-the-shelf therapies based on CAR-modified NKT cells generated in large volumes from healthy donors. While endowed with powerful cancer-killing properties like conventional T cells, invariant NKT cells express special T cell receptors that are not associated with GvHD. Hence allogeneic NKT cells can be used to treat multiple cancer patients with minimal risk of GvHD. The success of this program may expand significantly the potential use of cell-based immunotherapies on a cost-effective basis for the treatment of cancer patients.
Exclusive License & Development Plan
This new project will be conducted under the exclusive license and co-development agreement between Cell Medica and Baylor, announced in June 2016. Under the agreement, Baylor will perform the research required to develop off-the-shelf NKT cell therapies with funding and strategic input from Cell Medica. Cell Medica will have an exclusive option to develop all products and technologies arising from this effort, under the terms of the licensing agreement. As announced previously, Cell Medica and Baylor expect that their collaboration will generate a significant number of new products for Cell Medica’s pipeline.
Gregg Sando, CEO of Cell Medica said:
“Creating a safe and effective off-the-shelf product that can be used in multiple patients would unlock the full potential of cellular immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. The addition of this exciting new project to our co-development program shows how we can continue to leverage the strong research capability and industry know-how captured within this collaboration.”
Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, Professor of Pediatrics Oncology and Hematology, Baylor College of Medicine, added:
CAR-modified NKT cells offer several potential advantages for the treatment of cancer and the opportunity to develop an off-the-shelf product is a key consideration in this regard. The use of NKT cells simplifies the engineering of an allogeneic product and this should accelerate our development timelines towards first-in-human studies.
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About Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas is recognized as a premier academic health sciences center and is known for excellence in education, research and patient care. It is the only private medical school in the greater southwest US and is ranked 20th among medical schools for research and 9th for primary care by U.S. News & World Report. Baylor is listed 20th among all U.S. medical schools for National Institutes of Health funding and number one in Texas. Located in the Texas Medical Center, Baylor has affiliations with seven teaching hospitals and jointly owns and operates Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, part of CHI St. Luke’s Health. Currently, Baylor trains more than 3,000 medical, graduate, nurse anesthesia, physician assistant and orthotics students, as well as residents and post-doctoral fellows. Learn more at www.bcm.edu.
About Cell Medica
Cell Medica is a cellular therapeutics company engaged in the development, manufacturing and marketing of cellular immunotherapy products for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. Cellular immunotherapy is a novel form of medical treatment which has the potential to transform the treatment of cancer in the years ahead. Additional information can be found on the Company’s website www.cellmedica.co.uk.