UK-Singapore alliance focuses on cellular immunotherapy

Genome editing

UK company Plasticell and Singapore-based LambdaGen have entered into a strategic collaboration to exploit genome editing technologies based on synthetic lambda integrases that allow specific insertion of large gene cassettes into the human genome.

The UK-Singapore partnership is in part financed by a EUREKA GlobalStars competitive grant. The funding has been awarded to enable the two organisations to carry out a project – valued at £400,000 ($499,000) – which aims to create a broadly-applicable iPSC-derived allogenic immunotherapy platform.

LambdaGen will produce iPSC lines engineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and other effectors that enhance the anti-tumour activity of immune cells. Plasticell will use its combinatorial screening technology, CombiCult, to develop optimal protocols to convert these iPSCs into natural killer (NK) cells for allogeneic cancer immunotherapy.

“Cellular immunotherapy using CAR-T cells has revolutionised cancer treatment but these personalised medicines have significant manufacturing constraints and are prohibitively costly. There is a need for alternative ‘off-the-shelf’ immunotherapy products, which can be met by engineered NK cells capable of functioning in an allogeneic setting,” commented Dr Marina Tarunina, Research Director of Plasticell.

Harshyaa Makhija, CEO of LambdaGen, added: “We intend to engineer immune cells with multiple genes that increase tumour specificity, persistence, homing, and resistance to the tumour microenvironment, with a view to creating next-generation therapeutic products.”

The cellular immunotherapy sector is currently dominated by CAR-T therapies, with over 2100 products in development. NK cells are the second most utilised cell type, with over 500 products in development. Genetic modifications (besides CAR-T) which are engineered into cell immunotherapies represent a new approach to enhancing safety and potency. Currently, ‘armoured’ cell therapies comprise approximately 10% of assets in development.

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