After years of potential, cell and gene therapy is ready for the pharmaceutical mainstream – PMLiVE

Posted: December 26, 2020 at 2:57 pm

The argument for continued investment

C> is a high potential and maturing sector, and is an already crowded environment, playing host to numerous start-ups and now, through M&A, recognised big pharma firms. Much like the rush to find a COVID-19 vaccine that dominates headlines worldwide, not every company involved will be able to succeed.

But finnCaps finnLife watch list of 50 leading AIM-listed biotech companies demonstrates that there is room for numerous companies to contribute to, and profit from, C>. Examining three entirely different approaches to CAR-T therapy, it is possible to see just how much space there is for this exciting sector, therefore displaying the case for continued investment.

Innovative CAR-T therapy demonstrates the depth of C> potential

CAR-T therapy in its existing form is a relatively new and specialised approach at treating cancer. It takes T cells from a patients bloodstream and genetically modifies them in a laboratory. These T cells are then injected back into the bloodstream with the aim of targeting and killing cancer cells.

While it has been shown to be an effective treatment, there are risks and side effects. One is the two-step autologous process (the slow time it takes for cell expansion sometimes as long as two weeks) while another is cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which occurs when cytokine molecules are inadvertently released, but too quickly to target just the tumours and instead target healthy cells.

The next generation of CAR-T treatments shows that there is space for a multitude of start-ups to be active in the C> space as they all help find varied solutions to these problems without negating the effectiveness of CAR-T.

One example is Horizon Delivery, a company that is developing its CYAD-02 project, which will help transport T cells more effectively to the tumour via the use of SMARTvector products.

The product underwent its first phase 1 trial test in January 2020 with a patient who was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia. Horizon Delivery is also an industry leader in CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) screenings, meaning they can identify key genes or genetic sequences that draw out specific functions of a cell type from thousands of potential variants.

In a cancer context, this means they can route out and exclusively eliminate problematic cells that may have shown signs theyd resist a future cancer treatment.

Another example is Maxcyte, a global cell- based therapies and life sciences company that is developing its CARMA process, where a patients peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are removed and modified. The modified cells can then be used to target an array of different cancers.

Currently the company is conducting a phase 1 trial for advanced ovarian cancer in a dose escalation trial that will treat four separate cohorts the fourth of which was administered in March 2020.

Another example which shows the versatility of new CAR-T innovation is provided by Oxford Biomedica, a gene and cell therapy company specialising in the development of gene-based medicines.

Rather than a contained project or platform, its contribution to CAR-T is through a contract manufacturing development organisation. Collaborating with pharma companies, Oxford Biomedica uses its infrastructure to produce other companies licensed products, including Novartis Kymriah treatment (alongside other undisclosed CAR-T-related products).

With fast-moving innovation finally allowing multiple C> treatments to gain regulatory approval, along with a huge pipeline of upcoming therapies and an influx of funding and M&A activity, investing in C> no longer entails taking a bet on potential the future is finally here.

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After years of potential, cell and gene therapy is ready for the pharmaceutical mainstream - PMLiVE

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