HOUSTON & LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cell Medica announced today that it has been awarded an $8.7 million research grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The grant will support preclinical and clinical development of the company’s off-the-shelf chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer T cell (CAR-NKT) therapies to treat hematological and solid tumors.
The CPRIT grant will support development programs being conducted in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) that are designed to address the limitations of the current first-generation autologous CAR-T cell therapies. The aim is to deliver an off-the-shelf approach, with simplified manufacturing, that can serve larger patient numbers, and which allows treatment closer to the time of patient presentation. The program currently includes four therapies in early-stage development.
CMD-502 is Cell Medica’s most advanced off-the-shelf therapy and a first-in-human study is expected to start in the second half of 2019. Called the ANCHOR study, it will be a dose escalation evaluation of CMD-502 in adults with relapsed or refractory (R/R) diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
CPRIT awarded a $15.3 million grant to Cell Medica in 2012, to support the establishment of operations in Houston, Texas and fund earlier development programs. Through the current grant, CPRIT-funded research will be conducted at both BCM and Cell Medica’s Houston facility.
Chris Nowers, CEO of Cell Medica, commented: “CPRIT was instrumental in enabling us to establish our US operations in Texas, so we are delighted to extend that collaboration through a further grant. This funding will accelerate development of our off-the-shelf CAR-NKT pipeline and, given CPRIT’s deep and broad review, also brings a strong independent validation of our platform and approach.”
Dr. Carlos Ramos, Associate Professor, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, at BCM and principal investigator in Phase 1 ANCHOR study, added: “It has been a great pleasure working with the multi-disciplinary team at Cell Medica in the development of its versatile CAR-NKT platform. Off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell therapy has the potential to become a better and simpler approach to CAR therapy for patients with hematological and solid tumors.
“Although existing autologous CAR-T cell therapies have demonstrated impressive response rates, the patient-specific manufacturing process is technically challenging, costly, and time-consuming, and comes with complex logistics and substantial treatment delays. The unique properties of NKT cells bring the potential to solve these challenges.”
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Notes to Editors
CMD-502 is an innovative allogeneic (off-the-shelf) product, derived from healthy donors, in which NKT cells are genetically engineered with a CAR targeting CD19. NKT cells are a specific subset of T lymphocytes with the cytotoxic and anti-tumor properties of conventional T cells, but with other biological attributes that are expected to improve their ability to attack tumors, while not mediating graft versus host disease (GvHD). CD19 is a molecule expressed on the surface of many B cell derived malignancies.
In collaboration with its partners at BCM, Cell Medica has engineered a CD19-specific CAR construct that is designed to also secrete the cytokine IL-15, which has been shown in pre-clinical studies to increase the persistence of CAR-NKT cells and improve their efficacy within the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Type 1 NKT cells (which comprise CMD-502), express an invariant TCR and, on the basis of pre-clinical data, are not expected to cause GvHD. Cell Medica has further engineered CMD-502 to express low levels of histocompatibility molecules, enabling longer persistence in the recipient. The manufacturing process is designed to generate at least 150 doses of CMD-502 from a single human donor.
About Cell Medica
Cell Medica is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on transforming the treatment of solid and hematological cancers by developing next generation chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer T cell (CAR-NKT) therapies. Developing a portfolio of primarily allogeneic therapies, the company’s revolutionary platform engineers CARs on invariant NKT cells (iNKTs), a subset of T lymphocytes. A robust pipeline spanning both hematological and solid tumors is being created in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Headquartered in London, UK, the company also has facilities in Houston, US and Zurich, Switzerland.
About Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston 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 and is ranked 16th among medical schools for research and 5th 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. Follow Baylor College of Medicine on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas
To date, CPRIT has awarded $2.26 billion in grants to Texas researchers, institutions, and organizations. CPRIT provides funding through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. Programs made possible with CPRIT funding have reached all 254 counties of the state, brought more than 170 distinguished researchers to Texas, advanced scientific and clinical knowledge, and provided more than 5.2 million life-saving education, training, prevention, and early detection services to Texans. Learn more at cprit.texas.gov. Follow CPRIT at twitter.com/CPRITTexas and facebook.com/CPRITTexas.