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Biopharma, University Partner on Blood Cancer Immunotherapy

Angela Krackhardt

Angela Krackhardt (Technische Universität München)

29 January 2014. Kiadis Pharma B.V., a biopharmaceutical company in Amsterdam, is collaborating with a research group at Technical University of Munich to identify immune-system cells for treating leukemia in the company’s immunotherapy product for blood cancers. Financial aspects of the partnership were not disclosed, although the company says the Munich research is funded, at least in part, by a local biotechnology consortium.

Kiadis Pharma develops therapies for patients with late-stage blood cancers. The company’s lead product, known as ATIR, is a supporting treatment for leukemia and lymphoma that makes it possible for patients to receive stem cell transplants from family members who may not be a fully matched donor. Patients receiving transplants from donors who are not a perfect cellular match run the risk of contracting graft-versus-host disease, where the donor’s cells attack the patient’s normal cells, with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.

ATIR makes it possible for relatives of leukemia or lymphoma patient to donate bone marrow stem cells that would otherwise cause graft-versus-host disease. In ATIR, the donor’s T-cells, white-blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system and which would normally cause graft-versus-host disease, are selectively removed. The addition of ATIR, says the company, enables the standard stem cell transplant to work as if it were from the patient’s own body, which allows for the rebuilding of the patient’s own immune-system cells, and reducing the need for immune-system suppressants.

Under the agreement, the Translational Immunotherapy research group at Technical University of Munich will identify and describe the properties of specific T-cells related to leukemia likely instigate graft-versus-host disease. The Munich Biotech Cluster — a consortium of research labs, hospitals, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in and around Munich — is providing a grant to finance the project.

Angela Krackhardt, the research group’s director, will lead the research project. Krackhardt’s research investigates new tumor-associated antigens, as well as tumor-reactive T-cells and T-cell receptors. In a company statement, she says, “ATIR provides us with the perfect platform to identify (new) graft-versus-leukemia T-cells.”

ATIR is now in an intermediate-stage clinical trial with patients having acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. The company says ATIR received orphan drug designation from regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe.

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