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Biotech Company Licenses Caltech Immunotherapy Research


T-cell (NIAID/NIH)

24 September 2014. ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd., a developer of cancer therapies harnessing the immune system, is licensing technology developed in the lab of David Baltimore at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena that derives cancer-fighting cells from a person’s own blood-forming stem cells. Financial terms of the exclusive license to ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, based in Los Angeles, were not disclosed.

David Baltimore is president emeritus of Caltech and shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Baltimore’s lab is conducting basic research in genomics, as well as translational research on reprogramming the human immune system with gene transfer techniques. Among the translational research are studies of adapting an individual’s hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cells to create cancer-fighting T-cells from the immune system, the focus of the license.

ImmunoCellular’s work up to now encompasses therapeutic vaccines for cancer addressing dendritic or antigen-presenting cells that induce a response from T-cells in the immune system. The company’s pipeline includes an experimental therapy for newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme, a highly malignant and deadly brain cancer, in intermediate-stage clinical trials, while a treatment for recurrent glioblastoma is in early-stage trials.  A third therapy for ovarian cancer is still in preclinical development.

The Baltimore lab technology is expected to complement ImmunoCellular’s current cancer therapies. A continuing challenge in some cancer immunotherapies is the short duration of their effectiveness. The technology obtained through the license adds T-cell receptors to blood-forming stem cells rather than into T-cells themselves. The result, says the company, is a longer-lasting immune response that can treat previously unresponsive solid-tumor cancers, as evidenced in research with lab animals by Caltech and others.

“Our goal,” says ImmunoCellular CEO Andrew Gengos in a company statement, “is to generate a first clinical candidate from this new discovery platform, and expand our existing dendritic cell expertise into the adjacent fields of stem cells and T-cells.” The company says it expects to develop therapies that can work as single agents or in combination with other treatments.

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