Cell Medica announced today that it has been awarded an $8.7 million research grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The grant will support preclinical and clinical development of the company’s off-the-shelf chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer T cell (CAR-NKT) therapies to treat hematological and solid tumors.
The CPRIT grant will support development programs being conducted in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) that are designed to address the limitations of the current first-generation autologous CAR-T cell therapies. The aim is to deliver an off-the-shelf approach, with simplified manufacturing, that can serve larger patient numbers, and which allows treatment closer to the time of patient presentation. The program currently includes four therapies in early-stage development.
CMD-502 is Cell Medica’s most advanced off-the-shelf therapy and a first-in-human study is expected to start in the second half of 2019. Called the ANCHOR study, it will be a dose escalation evaluation of CMD-502 in adults with relapsed or refractory (R/R) diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
CPRIT awarded a $15.3 million grant to Cell Medica in 2012, to support the establishment of operations in Houston, Texas and fund earlier development programs. Through the current grant, CPRIT-funded research will be conducted at both BCM and Cell Medica’s Houston facility.
Chris Nowers, CEO of Cell Medica, commented: “CPRIT was instrumental in enabling us to establish our US operations in Texas, so we are delighted to extend that collaboration through a further grant. This funding will accelerate development of our off-the-shelf CAR-NKT pipeline and, given CPRIT’s deep and broad review, also brings a strong independent validation of our platform and approach.”
Dr. Carlos Ramos, Associate Professor, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, at BCM and principal investigator in Phase 1 ANCHOR study, added: “It has been a great pleasure working with the multi-disciplinary team at Cell Medica in the development of its versatile CAR-NKT platform. Off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell therapy has the potential to become a better and simpler approach to CAR therapy for patients with hematological and solid tumors.
“Although existing autologous CAR-T cell therapies have demonstrated impressive response rates, the patient-specific manufacturing process is technically challenging, costly, and time-consuming, and comes with complex logistics and substantial treatment delays. The unique properties of NKT cells bring the potential to solve these challenges.”