Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘Cellectis CAR-T Therapy’

Readers don’t need Biotech Strategy Blog to tell them that Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy (CAR-T), along with Checkpoint blockade, is one of the hottest areas of cancer drug development.

The last two days have seen pre #JPM15 deal activity with Kite Pharmaceuticals ($KITE) announcing a commercial collaboration with Amgen ($AMGN), which is not surprising given several of the Kite senior management team previously worked at the company.

Meanwhile, both Seattle based Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and Houston based Bellicum Pharmaceuticals ($BLCM) had successful IPO’s at the end of 2014. Interestingly, Bellicum are initially focusing most of their IPO funds, not on bringing their CAR-T to market, but on a novel cell therapy post stem cell transplant that aims to lower graft versus host disease (GvHD). GvHD is something we’ve been writing about regularly here!

Just this morning we’ve seen yet more CAR-T activity, with European Cardio3Biosciences (Euronext Brussels and Paris: CARD) acquiring the CAR-T technology of Oncyte (the oncology division of privately-held U.S. biotechnology company Celdara Medical).

There’s certainly a lot of activity in the CAR-T space and I expect we will hear more at next week’s JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco (#JPM15). One player in the CAR-T space who has not been gaining as much attention, and one that I think should not be dismissed, is Paris based Cellectis (Alternext: ALCLS.PA), who struck deals with both Servier and Pfizer last year. In June, BSB went to Paris and interviewed Chairman and CEO André Choulika, PhD and CSO Philippe Duchateau, PhD. At the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Francisco, Julianne Smith, PhD (pictured below), Vice President CART Development at Cellectis, gave an in-depth interview to BSB. Dr Julianne Smith Cellectis ASH 2014 Interview Some key questions to address here are what are some of the important milestones for Cellectis in 2015 and and what makes the Cellectis CAR-T approach different from other companies in this space? Update Nov 7: This post now has two updates relating to the important news that came out after this post was published concerning the issuance by the USPTO of a gene editing patent that covers Cellectis’ intellectual property.  Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue icon below.

San Francisco – it’s day 2 of the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Yesterday, data was presented to the media on “Directing the Immune System to Attack Hard-to-Treat Blood Cancers.”

ASH 2014 San Francisco Media Briefing

The press briefing included four presentations on some the latest developments in blood cancer immunotherapy:

  • Phase 1 trial of nivolumab in classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) – Abstract 289.
  • Phase 1 trial of pembrolizumab in classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) – Abstract 290.
  • Phase 2 trial of blinatumomab in acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) – Abstract 379
  • Phase 2 trial of CTL019 CAR-T therapy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – Abstract 380

Delegates to the meeting will hear the above abstracts presented in oral sessions tomorrow. However the media heard the results yesterday which led to stories being published about data that “researchers reported on Saturday” and described the “results presented at the American Society of Hematology,” not the results to be presented!

We also saw the publication of two New England Journal of Medicine papers to coincide with the presentations to the media yesterday.

The New England Journal published the nivolumab data in cHL. BMS seem to have a talent for obtaining publication of early PD-1 clinical trial data in the NEJM to coincide with meeting presentations.

Irrespective of when data is presented at ASH or how it is shared, data on its own is meaningless without context and interpretation. The majority of our conference coverage will be after we have heard the full presentations of data, talked to experts and can do in-depth pieces.

However, on our daily live blog (or as live as we can make it) we will be sharing rolling insights from the sessions we are in and top line thoughts on what captures our attention.

Today, for those of you looking for a photo with our antibuddies (@gene_antibody), they are having a photo opportunity – do check it out, they will be at the Genentech booth 1909 from 12 -1.30.

What Genentech are doing is fun and educational – but do remember to brush up on your antibody structures before asking for a photo, you wouldn’t want the embarrassment of not knowing which was which would you?

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At ASCO 2014, one of the posters that attracted a lot of attention was the one from Kite Pharma ($KITE) on their rapid cell expansion (RACE) technology for the production of engineered autologous T cell therapy.

Dr Renier Brentjens at 2012 Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium

As regular blog readers will know, we’ve been following the development of CD19-targeted T cells for the treatment of B cell malignancies such as CLL, ALL and aggressive NHL for some time.

Back in Autumn 2012, at the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium (CFS) in NYC, more commonly known as the “Greenspan” meeting after the late Dr Ezra Greenspan, we heard presentations on early CAR-T cell data from Dr Renier Brentjens (pictured right) of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Dr Michael Kalos from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).

At ASH 2012, we wrote about the data presented by Dr Carl June in the Ernest Beutler Prize Lecture. Dr Blazar, who jointly received the award, gave this quote from Dr Beutler, which is a reminder of why basic science is worthy of funding, and how important it is to innovation:

“The tendency to merely elaborate on what many others are doing arises, at least in part, from the almost universal misconception that our understanding of nature is profound, that most or all of the basic concepts have already been discovered, and that success in science consists of filling in the blanks with large teams of collaborators.”

What started off as pure academic research, has within a short period of time, become a hot (if not the hottest) area of immunotherapy drug development as inspired by the potential of early data, companies and investors pour money into commercializing CAR-T cell therapy.

Novartis had obtained the exclusive rights to Penn’s CTL019 CAR-T cell therapy in August 2012 at what now seems a bargain price.

Juno Therapeutics was subsequently created with $176M in Series A private equity funding at the end of 2013 to commercialize the CAR-T cell research of Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Last week brought further development with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) from Kite Pharma who have a collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Kite said they expected to raise $106M at a share price of $17, which was at the high end of the range. The shares soared 70% in initial trading, and closed at $29 on Friday.

To throw more fuel into the competitive fire, Pfizer have announced the signing of an agreement with French company, Cellectis, to collaborate on the development of their CAR-T cell technology.

In this first of a series of blog posts on gems from the ASCO poster hall, we take a look at the data presented by Kite Pharma and some of the challenges and opportunities the company faces.

Please note this post offers no investment advice and makes no recommendation on whether you should buy or sell shares in $KITE.

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