Mesoblast and Cartherics form partnership to develop 'off-the-shelf' CAR-T therapies for solid cancers

Relapsed Ovarian and Gastric Cancers Initial Targets for Allogeneic CAR-T Cells

Mesoblast Limited today announced that it has entered into a partnership with Cartherics Pty Ltd to develop allogeneic ‘off-the-shelf’ CAR-T cells armed with multiple targeting receptors for use in solid cancers. Off the shelf CAR-T therapies have the potential to reduce costs dramatically and open up this very effective treatment to millions of cancer patients across the world. The initial targets are relapsed ovarian and gastric cancers. Mesoblast and Cartherics will jointly own the intellectual property produced using their combined technologies.

The program will be funded by A$12.6 million ($US9.6 million) in direct and in-kind contributions from collaborators in the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program (CRC-P), including Cartherics, Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Cell Therapies Pty Ltd.

Mesoblast will make an in-kind contribution of its allogeneic cell platform technology as well as providing scientific expertise. Mesoblast is a global leader in allogeneic cellular medicines with three Phase 3 trials in advanced heart failure, chronic lower back pain and acute graft versus host disease.

“We’re very excited to now be in a position to produce unique, timely and cost-effective off-the-shelf therapies that may remove many barriers to treatment for cancer,” said Professor Alan Trounson, CEO of Cartherics, Hudson Institute Distinguished Scientist, stem cell biologist, IVF pioneer and former President of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

While clinical results using CAR-T cells have yielded unprecedented complete clearance response rates in certain blood cancer patients, the process poses daunting challenges. CAR-T cells are derived from individual patient’s T-cells, a complex, time-consuming, and patient-specific process whose manufacturing alone can cost upwards of USD$400,000. Experts have estimated the total all-in cost of a multi-dose CAR-T therapy at as much as USD$1.5 million per patient.

Combining technology platforms from Mesoblast and Cartherics aims to facilitate large scale production of allogeneic CAR-T cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Clinical-grade manufacturing and banking methods will be used to convert gene-edited iPSCs to potentially limitless numbers of killer T cells, eliminating costly resources required to produce autologous (patient’s own) CAR-T cells. This could provide large numbers of cancer patients with access to cost-effective ‘off-the-shelf’ CAR-T therapies.

Mesoblast Chief Executive Dr Silviu Itescu stated:

With our combined technology platforms and expertise, we are ideally placed to greatly increase accessibility to this very promising new field of cancer therapeutics through the development of highly-scalable, allogeneic cellular immunotherapies."

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