Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cell therapy has already demonstrated both promising preclinical and clinical results. Several companies are racing to commercialize this technology, including Novartis/University of Pennsylvania, Juno Therapeutics, Celgene/Bluebird, and Kite Pharma.
Novartis seems to be the leader in developing the first CAR-T cell therapy, with Juno not far behind. However, Cellectis, a French based biotech company, makes its own rules, if successful, could be a game changer.
Cellectis’ lead candidate (UCART19, co-developed with Servier) is an engineered allogeneic CD19 T cell for treating various types of leukemias and lymphomas. Allogeneic means utilizing engineered T cells from a single donor for use in multiple patients. This is distinct from other autologous approaches that CAR-T cells come from patient’s own.
Cellectis presented a study entitled “MULTIPLEX GENOME EDITING OF TCRALPHA/CD52 GENES AS A PLATFORM FOR ‘OFF THE SHELF’ ADOPTIVE T-CELL IMMUNOTHERAPIES” at 19th Congress of the European Hematology Association, Milan, June 2014. This report disclosed how Cellectis overcome the key barriers of allogeneic T cells.
Cellectis disrupted TCRalpha constant (TRAC) gene and CD52 gene in CAR-T cells via TALEN gene editing technology to achieve alloreactivity elimination and preparative lymphodepletion. The resulted TCR/CD52-deficient universal CAR-T cells can be administered with concomitant alemtuzumab, an approved anti-CD52 monoclonal antibody, to both promote engraftment and suppress rejection.
Thus, Cellectis’ products have the potential to be standardized with consistent quality. Their allogenic products can be distributed to any cancer hospital in the world without the need to invest in a local CAR-T processing facility.
That is the reason why Pfizer chose Cellectis as a global strategic partner in the field of cancer immunotherapy.