Part 2 of the ASH 2015 interview Professor Waseem Qasim kindly gave BSB at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) discusses the poster he presented at the meeting (Abstract 2046:) “First Clinical Application of Talen Engineered Universal CAR19 T Cells in B-ALL.”
Prof Qasim is a Consultant in Paediatric Immunology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Professor of Cell & Gene Therapy at the Institute of Child Health which is part of University College London (UCL).
The “devil is in the detail” so it was a privilege to be taken through the case by Prof Qasim, and in the process, better understand the treatment rational, as well some of the challenges and unanswered questions that will need to be addressed moving forwards.
The first-in-man use of the UCART19 allogeneic CAR T cell therapy from Cellectis was done under the Compassionate Use guidelines of the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). A phase 1 clinical trial is planned for early 2016.
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Cellectis is a Paris based biotechnology company, (NYSE alternext: ALCLS.PA) with an aspiring “blue ocean” strategy that, if successful, could revolutionize cancer immunotherapy.
The potential of using engineered T-cells (known as chimeric antigen receptors) to fight cancer was highlighted by the impressive data presented at last year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH 2013).
To many, the data for the U Penn/Novartis engineered T-Cell therapy (CTL019) in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pALL) was worthy of presentation in the plenary session at the meeting.
Over the past year, investors have poured money into companies active in the field: we’ve written about the launch of Juno Therapeutics and their intellectual property (IP) dispute with Novartis. More recently Kite Pharma had a successful IPO.
Why was Biotech Strategy Blog keen to interview Cellectis Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Philippe Duchateau, PhD and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) André Choulika, PhD (picture left and right respectively)?
The answer is they have a completely new and innovative approach to CAR-T cell therapy that in the long run could be a “game changer.” Their lead product (UCART19) is an allogeneic CAR T cell for ALL and CLL. Allogeneic means the T cells that are modified come from a donor. This is in contrast to the autologous approaches that Kite, Novartis and Juno are developing where the engineered CAR-T cells come from the patient themselves.
All credit to Pfizer for seeing the potential in a company that has been on our radar for a while. They recently announced a major collaboration with Cellectis that could turn both Cellectis and Pfizer into major players in the cancer immunotherapy space.
In this fast moving R&D space there are already signs of where competition to Cellectis may come from, and it’s not Novartis, Juno or Kite.
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