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UCL and Cell Medica announce collaboration to develop modified T cell receptor products

UCL and Cell Medica will collaborate to develop modified T cell receptor products for the treatment of cancer, it was announced today.

UCL has provided Cell Medica with an exclusive license to its novel T cell receptor (TCR) technology to generate leading-edge modified TCR products.

T cell receptors are molecules found on the surface of T cells which recognise antigens expressed by cancer cells. TCR technology exploits the ability of TCRs to target both intracellular and cell surface antigens, providing an important mechanism to engineer immune cells to target tumours.  The UCL TCR technology has the potential to produce strong expression of TCRs by the engineered T cells which is expected to improve their efficacy in fighting tumours.  

The collaboration will build on the research of BRC Infection, Immunity and Inflammation Programme Director Professor Emma Morris and Professor Hans Stauss, global leaders in developing modified TCRs for cancer treatments.

Professor Morris said: “As a clinician treating patients with blood cancers, I am aware of the urgent need to develop more effective and less toxic therapies. Immunotherapy with gene-modified immune cells has enormous potential to transform the lives of cancer patients. It is truly exciting to be supported by Cell Medica to accelerate our progress in developing new therapies.”

Professors Stauss, Director of the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation at the Royal Free Hospital, said: “This collaboration provides an exciting opportunity to move our TCR gene therapy technologies more effectively towards clinical application. We are grateful to the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, who have provided important long-term support for our work. The new collaboration with Cell Medica enables us to take full advantage of our pre-clinical research and rapidly develop novel TCRs for the treatment of patients with cancer.”

UCL will conduct the preclinical and early clinical research under the guidance of a Joint Steering Committee. Cell Medica will support the product development work with its experience in manufacturing clinical-grade cell therapies and establishing production processes suitable for industrial scale-up. Following completion of successful first-in-man studies, the products will transfer to Cell Medica for later-stage clinical development and commercialisation.

Cell Medica has entered into an exclusive license and option agreement with UCL Business, the technology transfer office of UCL, for the dominant TCR platform patent and two target antigens. As part of this agreement, both parties can bring targets or platform technologies to the collaboration, aiming to generate leading-edge modified TCR products. In addition, UCL and Cell Medica have signed a Sponsored Research Agreement under which Cell Medica will fund all research and development with an exclusive option to license all products developed within the collaboration. 

Gregg Sando, CEO of Cell Medica said: “This collaboration adds the modified TCR technology platform to our strategy to develop breakthrough treatments for cancer using cellular immunotherapy products.  The partnership with Professors Morris and Stauss, leading researchers in this field, should enable us to generate a pipeline of new TCR products with increased efficacy and safety for patients.”