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Biotech Reviewing Stanford Immuno-Stem Cell Technology

Mark Davis

Mark Davis (Stanford University)

16 February 2016. A biotechnology company in Los Angeles is evaluating a technology developed at Stanford University for transferring DNA of immune system cells to a patient’s own stem cells to produce immunotherapies for treating cancer. The agreement with Stanford gives ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd. an option to license the technology from the lab of immunologist Mark Davis, but financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

Davis and colleagues at Stanford University’s medical school study structural and biochemical factors that enable T-cell receptors — molecules found on the surface of T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system — to recognize antigens, proteins that generate an immune response by T-cells. The particular technology of interest to ImmunoCellular isolates T-cell receptors, which are then genetically sequenced to produce DNA that can be introduced into hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cells for transformation into healthy immune-system cells.

ImmunoCellular produces therapeutic vaccines that harness the immune system to treat cancer. Its main technology platform engineers dendritic or antigen-presenting cells that induce an immune response from T-cells. The company’s pipeline has treatments for newly diagnosed and recurrent glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, now in clinical trials, and a dendritic cell treatment for ovarian cancer ready for clinical trials.

A new ImmunoCellular program aims to use hematopoietic stem cells to create antigen-specific T-cell therapies, which the Davis lab technology would support. If the evaluation leads to licensing the technology from Stanford, the company envisions harvesting a cancer patient’s hematopoietic stem cells, and engineering the cells to include DNA from T-cell receptors, then transforming into T-cells in sufficient quantities for transplant back to the patient. The transformed T-cells would be pre-programed to target, bind to, and destroy specific cancer cells.

Steven Swanson, ImmunoCellular’s vice president for research, calls the option deal with Stanford “a major milestone” for advancing the company’s pipeline of immunotherapies. Swanson says in a company statement, “Our strategy is to integrate complementary breakthrough technologies by using modified stem cells from the patient to develop antigen-specific killer T-cells that can directly attack and potentially eradicate tumors and prevent their recurrence.”

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