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Cancer Center, Biotech Partner on Off-the-Shelf T-Cells

T-cells and cancer cells

Killer T-cells surround a cancer cell (NICHD, Flickr)

15 Oct. 2020. MD Anderson Cancer Center and Allogene Therapeutics Inc. agreed to jointly study the company’s cancer treatments derived from donated T-cells. Financial and intellectual property details of the agreement between MD Anderson, part of the University of Texas system in Houston, and Allogene Therapeutics, in South San Francisco, California, were not disclosed.

Allogene Therapeutics is developing treatments for blood-related and solid tumor cancers with engineered T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system. T-cells are altered by adding chimeric antigen receptors, proteins attracting antibodies that bind to and destroy blood-related and solid tumor cancer cells. Current methods producing chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, known as CAR T-cells, genetically engineer a patient’s own T-cells, then re-infuse the altered T-cells back into the individual, with successful results for blood-related cancers in some cases.

The company’s process is designed to produce off-the-shelf CAR T-cell treatments from T-cells provided by healthy donors. Allogene says this approach provides a ready supply of CAR T-cell therapies in patients, where their often critical conditions won’t allow harvesting of these cells. The process also removes the need for leukapheresis, the process of separating white blood cells in the lab from whole blood donations and returning the remainder to the patient.

Allogene produces its T-cells, called AlloCAR Ts, to seek out and bind to cancer cells expressing specific characteristic proteins on their cell surfaces. Three of the company’s lead products, now in early-stage clinical trials, target a protein called CD19 found on the surface of B cells — another type of white blood cell — associated with several blood-related cancers. Another target of Allogene treatments is the B cell maturation antigen, or BCMA, protein, also associated with blood-related cancers, with one product in an early-stage trial.

The five-year agreement calls for MD Anderson and Allogene to collaborate on preclinical studies and clinical trials of AlloCAR T candidates. Allogene is providing funds and AlloCAR T candidates for study, both for blood-related and solid tumor cancers, with a joint Anderson-Allogen committee overseeing the project. The joint committee will also oversee regulatory filings.

“This collaboration,” says Christopher Flowers, MD Anderson’s interim cancer medicine division head in a statement, “will enable us to work together closely to advance allogeneic cell therapies to better address significant unmet medical needs for patients across the spectrum of oncologic diseases.”

In April 2018, Science & Enterprise reported on Allogene Therapeutics’ founding, initial funding, and acquisition of off-the-shelf T-cell technology. The company was started by former executives of Kite Pharma, a company that helped pioneer CAR T-cell treatments for cancer using a patient’s own T-cells. In August 2017, Kite Pharma was acquired for nearly $12 billion by biopharmaceutical maker Gilead Sciences. Arie Belldegrun, Allogene’s executive chairman, was Kite Pharma’s president and CEO, while David Chang, formerly Kite’s R&D and chief medical officer, is now Allogene’s president and CEO.

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