Gene-editing biotechnology Intellia Therapeutics partners with Cellex Cell Professionals to launch a new startup that will develop immunotherapies against cancer and inflammatory diseases. This new company will be supported up to $ 250 million by Blackstone Life Sciences.
This new company aims to improve the type of cancer immunotherapy called chimeric antigen receptor T cells, or CAR T, which are made by turning a patient’s own immune cells into a living medicine. These therapies have so far only been approved for the treatment of blood cancers and they introduce the risk of triggering dangerous immune responses. Intellia, based in Cambridge, Mass., Believes that the combination of its technology with that of a biotech based in Germany can overcome these limitations.
Intellia brings its expertise in editing CRISPR genes, which it uses to develop allogeneic or ready-to-use CAR T therapies from donor cells. Cellex offers its manufacturing capabilities. Cellex’s subsidiary, GEMoaB, will provide technology that makes CAR T “switchable”, turning it on or off to improve the duration of therapy as well as its safety. Speaking on a conference call Tuesday, Intellia CEO John Leonard said that if cancer and normal tissue share a target, GEMoaB’s technology can withdraw cell therapy if toxic – a ” reversibility “which offers an advantage over other CAR T approaches.
“We believe that we will have access to a leading CAR T platform that will essentially go beyond other existing modalities,” he said. “It’s a powerful way to do it. “
The company, whose name has not yet been named, is the result of an alliance that Intellia initiated last year with GEMoaB. The aim was to discover and develop “new generation” cellular immunotherapies for cancers and inflammatory diseases that are difficult to treat. Leonard said that as the collaboration progressed, the partners realized that consolidating their respective technologies can progress faster and more efficiently. This new company, which will develop both autologous and allogeneic therapies, will have an exclusive license to combine Intellia’s technological platform with GEMoaB’s two T cell platforms, called UniCAR and RevCAR.
Although the new company will become a separate entity, it will retain close ties with the companies that formed it. Intellia has the right to participate in the development and financing of a universal allogeneic product of CAR T cells that the new company is developing for an indication in immuno-oncology intended for co-marketing in the United States and in certain European countries. Intellia also has an additional option to enter into a second co-development and co-funding agreement based on certain universal allogeneic CAR T cell therapies.
Intellia is still taking advantage of this by meeting its manufacturing needs. The deal with Cellex gives the US biotech access to the German company’s cell therapy manufacturing site and allogeneic cell donation, according to an investor presentation. This “privileged relationship” will support Intellia’s wholly owned pipeline of ex vivo cell therapies while also giving it the ability to expand this pipeline. The new company will also have access to Cellex’s manufacturing capabilities.
The most advanced Intellia program, NTLA-2001, is being developed in partnership with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of transthyretin amyloidosis, a rare disease. Interim Phase 1 data is due on June 26 at the Peripheral Nerve Society annual meeting. GEMoaB has developed its own pipeline of drugs at the preclinical and clinical stage for blood cancers and solid tumors. This pipeline includes wholly owned assets as well as a prostate cancer program in phase 1 testing as part of a partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb.
Phase 1 testing of GEMoaB’s main universal CAR T therapies for blood cancers and solid tumors is underway. Interim data published earlier this year in the journal Blood showed that the leading blood cancer control program, UniCAR-T-CD123, was well tolerated by patients and showed early signs of treatment efficacy. relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia. This and other ongoing program will remain with GEMoaB as it becomes a subsidiary of the new company.
The new company will draw its management team from Intellia and GEMoaB. Andrew Schiermeier, currently Executive Vice President and COO of Intellia, will be the new company’s President and CEO. Gerhard Ehninger, CEO of Cellex and Medical Director of GEMoaB, will become Medical Director of the new company. GEMoab’s Scientific Director, Armin Ehninger, will assume the same role in the new company. The new company will be based in Cambridge but will keep laboratories in Dresden, Germany. Leonard said most of the research will be done in Dresden, but Schiermeier will build a team in the United States as well.
“The idea is for the company to have a German background with a strong American accent, if you will,” Leonard said. “It’s a way to access US markets, have a clinical presence here in the US and move forward as it grows.
The deal is expected to be finalized in the third quarter of this year. When that happens, Blackstone, Intellia and Cellex will own 50% of the new company.
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