A California-Texas collaboration
SAN JOSE, Calif.—ITUS Corporation and Moffitt Cancer Center have inked a cooperative research and development agreement with the goal of moving a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technology into human clinical testing. The initial focus will be ovarian cancer, but it's thought that the technology could also have applications in prostate and pancreatic cancer, as well as others.
"Our program with Moffitt will be led by a group of stellar scientists and physicians. We are excited to advance this program which we hope will be the first or one of the first CAR-T technologies that shows efficacy for solid tumors,” Dr. Amit Kumar, president and CEO of ITUS, said in a press release. “CAR-T technology is a new adoptive cell therapy that has shown tremendous efficacy for refractory cancer patients suffering from B-cell cancers. However, to date, there have been no reports of success on solid tumors in humans."
The technology in question consists of engineering killer T cells with the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to target ovarian cancer cells that express FSH-receptor, an exclusive protein that is found on a large percentage of ovarian cancer cells but absent on healthy tissue. Animal studies of this technology so far have demonstrated efficacy.
"As someone that's worked on both the preclinical and clinical development of CD19-targeted CAR-T cells, I have seen first-hand the power of gene-engineered T cell therapies,” said Dr. Marco Davila, who will co-lead the IND enabling work. “However, a major obstacle to the adaptation of this technology, especially to solid tumors, is the safety of the protein targets. The FSH-receptor is an ideal tumor target similar to CD19 since it is widely expressed on tumor cells, but has minimal expression on normal cells. We are hopeful that this could represent the first non-B cell, malignancy that responds to a CAR-T cell therapy.”
Dr. Jose Conejo Garcia, principal investigator and co-inventor of this technology at The Wistar Institute, commented that "We are pleased to work with ITUS and Dr. Kumar and his team to take this technology to the next stage. We are looking forward to eventually seeing this technology tested in human patients against ovarian cancer, for which there are few good options.”
ITUS signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement for the technology with The Wistar Institute on Nov. 14, and established Certainty Therapeutics Inc., a subsidiary, to develop and commercialize the technology. The Wistar Institute is a founding member of the subsidiary, which is majority owned by ITUS.
Kumar said at the time that, "We are very pleased to have entered into this new relationship with The Wistar Institute, and we are excited to grow our business into the CAR-T therapeutics space. This license is a transformative event for an emerging company like ITUS, enabling us to work in a space that is the focus of tremendous scientific and investor interest. With our knowledge and expertise of immune system function, an expansion into immuno-therapy is a very natural progression for the company, and we believe one that is highly complementary with our Cchek cancer detection platform."