Cell Medica and Baylor to develop off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cells for cancer treatment

Posted: 17 November 2016 | Niamh Louise Marriott, Digital Content Producer | No comments yet

Cell Medica has expanded its partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to develop an off-the-shelf allogeneic cell therapy, using T (NKT) cells…

Cell Medica has expanded its partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to develop an off-the-shelf allogeneic cell therapy, taking advantage of the unique aspects of invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells.  

Off-the-shelf technology

Cellular immunotherapy offers great promise in treating cancer but may be limited in application if products require individual preparation for each new patient.  

Most cell-based immuno
therapies utilise T cells which are naturally programmed to kill malignant cancer cells and can be further engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or modified T cell receptors to improve their use for treating cancer.  

Serious side effect

As an off-the-shelf product, however, allogeneic T cells derived from healthy donors carry the risk of recognising the patient’s body as foreign, which can cause a serious side effect called graft versus host disease (GvHD).


Baylor and Cell Medica plan to overcome this problem by developing off-the-shelf therapies based on CAR-modified NKT cells generated in large volumes from healthy donors.  While endowed with powerful cancer-killing properties like conventional T cells, invariant NKT cells express special T cell receptors that are not associated with GvHD. 

Hence allogeneic NKT cells can be used to treat multiple cancer patients with minimal risk of GvHD.    The success of this program may expand significantly the potential use of cell-based immunotherapies on a cost-effective basis for the treatment of cancer patients.

Exclusive License & Development Plan

This new project will be conducted under the exclusive license and co-development agreement between Cell Medica and Baylor, announced in June 2016. 

Gregg Sando, CEO of Cell Medica said, “Creating a safe and effective off-the-shelf product that can be used in multiple patients would unlock the full potential of cellular immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer.”

Under the agreement, Baylor will perform the research required to develop therapies with funding and strategic input from Cell Medica.

Cell Medica will have an exclusive option to develop all products and technologies arising from this effort, under the terms of the licensing agreement. As announced previously, Cell Medica and Baylor expect that their collaboration will generate a significant number of new products for Cell Medica’s pipeline.

Dr Leonid Metelitsa, Baylor College of Medicine, added, “CAR-modified NKT cells offer several potential advantages for the treatment of cancer and the opportunity to develop an off-the-shelf product is a key consideration in this regard. The use of NKT cells simplifies the engineering of an allogeneic product and this should accelerate our development timelines towards first-in-human studies.”

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