One of the benefits of attending the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting that finished earlier this week in New Orleans is the opportunity to talk to experts who are at the forefront of their field.
Renier Brentjens, MD PhD, is Director of Cell Therapeutics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and one of the scientific founders of Juno Therapeutics (Juno), a start-up company that recently raised $120M in Series A financing.
Luke Timmerman wrote about the company launch on Xconomy and you can read the Dec 4 press release from Juno here.
Like a modern day David versus Goliath, Juno Therapeutics has set itself up to compete with Novartis in the exciting world of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) modified T cell therapy that has already shown dramatic results in pediatric and adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
A lot of media attention has focused on the Novartis collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania to develop a novel therapy using CAR modified T cells (CART-19/CTL019) that can be directed against tumor cells that express the CD19 antigen.
The potential promise of CAR modified T cell therapies has already led to a flurry of law suits between the St Jude Children’s Hospital (St Jude) and University of Pennyslvania (U Penn).
According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, U Penn are seeking to invalidate a St Jude patent while St Jude have claimed violations of the terms of a material transfer agreement that allowed access by Carl June (U Penn) to work done by Dario Campana (St Jude).
It will be interesting to see what intellectual property Novartis actually owns and whether they did a thorough enough due diligence prior to licensing the rights to CTL019 from U Penn.