UCL accelerates research of relapse in childhood blood cancer 

Blood cancer

The University College London (UCL) has entered into a partnership with ViroCell Biologics to advance Professor Persis Amrolia’s innovative chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for relapsed paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).  

Dr Amrolia is Professor of Transplantation Immunology at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and an international leader in CAR T-cell therapy for paediatric ALL, and ViroCell Biologics is a specialist viral vector CDMO for cell and gene therapy (CGT) clinical trials. 

Scientific context and unmet need 

ALL is the most common cancer in childhood and, whilst 85% of patients can be cured with conventional chemotherapy and stem cell transplant, relapsed ALL remains one of the leading causes of cancer death in children. Genetically modified CAR T-cells targeting CD19 have shown impressive outcomes in relapsed/refractory ALL. However, 50% of responding patients will relapse either due to evolution of CD19 negative disease or early loss of CAR T-cells so that only around 40% of patients are cured by the currently licensed CAR T-cell therapies. There is thus a clear unmet need to develop novel CAR T-cell products with improved efficacy. To address these challenges, Professor Amrolia has developed a cutting-edge solution that preserves early “stem cell memory” T-cells, which persist longer in patients together with dual targeting with both CD19 and CD22 CAR T-cells to prevent antigen-negative relapse.  

Through this collaboration with ViroCell Biologics, UCL’s research capabilities will be supported in the manufacturing of high-specificity lentiviral vectors to advance UCL’s Phase I CARPALL cohort 4 clinical trial in children and young adults (age <18) with relapsed/refractory ALL. The study is expected to initiate in Q2 2024. 

Dr Amrolia commented: “The depth of experience of the team, paired with their commitment to speed in manufacturing, testing and release makes ViroCell the ideal partner for innovators looking to transition their therapy swiftly from vector design to manufacturing and, ultimately, into patients.” 

This agreement follows the recent UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approval of ViroCell’s manufacturing operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital’s (GOSH) manufacturing facility, the Zayed Centre for Research. The Manufacturer’s Authorisation License granted to GOSH, announced on 1 November 2023, allows ViroCell to manufacture and globally export its high-quality viral vectors for use in CGT clinical trials. 

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