Yesterday, Juno Therapeutics announced a new deal for a collaboration with Editas Medicine that is:
“Focused on creating chimeric antigen receptor (CAR T) and high-affinity T cell receptor (TCR) therapies to treat cancer. The companies will pursue three research programs together utilizing Editas’ genome editing technologies, including CRISPR/Cas9, with Juno’s CAR and TCR technologies.”
This follows on from their recent deals with Fate Therapeutics and Stage Cell Therapeutics and bluebird bio’s licensing deal with Five Prime for novel antibodies to develop CAR T cell therapy.
One of the most interesting questions in CAR T cell development, is whether you need to incorporate a suicide gene or suicide switch into them that allows you to turn off the response, force the T cells to self-destruct, in the event of severe Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) or other serious adverse events.
This review article is another example that straddles data from conferences earlier this month at Immunology 2015 (AAI) and American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) this coming weekend.
At ASGCT we spoke with Dr Carl June and also heard the latest update on what Cellectis are doing from Dr Julianne Smith.
Companies mentioned: Juno Therapeutics, Novartis/U Penn, Cellectis, Bellicum, bluebird bio, Formula, Molmed.
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Several subscribers have written to ask what we think of Houston based Bellicum Pharmaceuticals?
Bellicum is a company that along with Novartis, Kite, Juno and Cellectis has a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy in development, amongst other things.
Readers already know the company had a successful IPO in December (NASDAQ: BLCM) and were reported to have raised $140M to fund future development.
This morning, the company announced enrollment of the first cohort of pediatric patients in a phase 1/2 dose escalation trial of BPX-501 (link to press release). This T cell therapy aims to mitigate the risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD) after an allogeneic haploid hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
BSB spoke with Bellicum CEO Tom Farrell and COO Dr Annemarie Moseley to answer some of the questions we think subscribers would like to know more about such as:
- Market opportunity for BPX-501
- Mechanism of action of BPX-501
- Strategic direction the company is taking
- Vision with regards to its CAR-T development
- Milestones expected in 2015
We’ve provided some additional commentary on the challenges and opportunities Bellicum may face in the GvHD market and how we think the company stacks up against the competition in the CAR-T space. Be warned this piece is a long read: 6,000+ words!
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Readers don’t need Biotech Strategy Blog to tell them that Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy (CAR-T), along with Checkpoint blockade, is one of the hottest areas of cancer drug development.
The last two days have seen pre #JPM15 deal activity with Kite Pharmaceuticals ($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.
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.
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