Aimed at bringing a new, personalized immunotherapy approach to patients with a wide variety of cancers, the University of Pennsylvania and Switzerland-based Novartis inked an exclusive global research and licensing agreement to further study and commercialize novel cellular immunotherapies using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technologies.
The agreement, which follows a University of Pennsylvania research team's 2011 publication of breakthrough results in several chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients treated with this personalized immunotherapy technique, paves the way for pivotal studies that have the potential to expand the use of CAR therapies for additional cancers.
The University and Novartis will build a first-of-its-kind Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies (CACT) on the University’s campus in Philadelphia—a venture which will bring full circle the 1960 discovery of the Philadelphia chromosome, the first description of a chromosome abnormality that causes cancer. The center will be devoted to the discovery, development and manufacturing of adoptive T cell immunotherapies through a joint R&D program led by scientists and clinicians from the University, Novartis and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
"With our shared commitment to rapidly advancing new therapies and cures, this new alliance will provide the support for the essential clinical trials with engineered T cells, which could open doors for use of promising treatment options for many cancer patients who have reached the end of currently available treatments,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of the Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and executive vice president for the Health System.
The University will grant Novartis an exclusive worldwide license to the technologies used in an ongoing trial of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), as well as future CAR-based therapies developed through the collaboration. Novartis will in turn invest in the establishment of the CACT and future research of the technology. Additional milestone and royalty payments to the University are also part of the agreement.
In addition to continued trials in CLL, the University has also engineered T cell trials underway for other leukemias as well as lymphoma, mesothelioma, myeloma and neuroblastoma.