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Syncona and Kite Pharma announced separate investments into T-cell therapies to fight cancerous tumors.
Syncona and UCL Business, the technology transfer company of University College London, announced on Jan. 22, 2015 the creation of Autolus Limited, a biopharmaceutical company focused on next-generation engineered T-cell therapies. Autolus’ purpose is to develop and commercialize T-cell therapies for the treatment of hematological and solid tumors, and Syncona committed £30 million ($45 million USD) to help finance the operation. Dr. Martin Pule is an academic clinical hematologist and thought-leader in T-cell engineering, upon which the work for Autolus is founded.
According to the press release, clinical trials of engineered T-cell treatments for hematological malignancies suggest that chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells may eventually transform cancer therapy. T-cells are extracted from a patient’s blood to reprogram a patient’s immune system to kill tumor cells. The CAR gene introduces a targeting mechanism to the T-cells to recognize and destroy tumor cells.
Recent breakthroughs have caused an increase in investments into T-cell therapy research and development. Also announced on Jan. 22, 2015, Kite Pharma expanded its agreement with Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and research professor Zelig Eshar to develop CAR T-cell immunotherapies.
"Originally, my research had addressed the question of whether T-cells can be programmed to effectively recognize and eliminate cancerous cells and to solve the central problem of how and why cancer cells escape the immune system. Now, we believe that we can further enhance this platform technology to develop a whole new generation of CAR T cell products for many tumor types," said Zelig Eshar, in a press release.