Chimeric and US university ink new deal on cancer treatment

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Chimeric is aiming to eradicate cancer through research on innovative cell therapies.
Camera IconChimeric is aiming to eradicate cancer through research on innovative cell therapies. Credit: File

Biotech company Chimeric Therapeutics has advanced its cutting-edge cancer-fighting work by expanding a licencing agreement with a top US university for breakthrough cancer treatment.

The clinical-stage cell therapy company hopes the new agreement, through the acquisition of access to critical know-how, will expedite its goals of a clinical study on people with gastrointestinal cancers and then to commercialise the treatment.

In the original agreement, inked last year, the University of Pennsylvania gave Chimeric the rights to a world-first treatment involving cell engineering.

Now, the Sydney-based company also gets rights to manufacture a key part of the treatment: the virus developed to reprogram a cancer sufferer’s blood cells to destroy tumours.

Chimeric’s lofty ambition is not merely to slow the progress of cancers, but cure them.

To that end it is developing novel cell therapy treatments in collaboration with the likes of the University of Pennsylvania, or “Penn” as it is popularly known.

Penn is widely regarded as one of the world’s top cancer research centres and the new treatment was developed by the university’s Professor of Cancer Biology, Xianxin Hua.

The treatment is called CDH17 CAR T and has been licensed by Penn to Chimeric.

CDH17, or cadherin 17, refers to the molecule that drives cancer cells and promotes cancerous metastases.

Eliminating CDH17 means cancer cells start to die off and the tumour retreats.

CAR T refers to the chimeric antigen receptor t-cell – specially altered T cells that are part of the immune system.

CDH 17 is well-known to cancer specialists. However, the difficulty in previous attempts to target CDH17 is that it is also found in normal, healthy cells – so any treatment risks killing a patient’s normal cells, too.

Under the proposed new treatment, blood cells are removed from the patient, engineered with CAR T before being returned. The newly engineered cells then go and seek expressions of CDH17 in cancer cells, attach to them and destroy them.

The beauty of what Professor Hua has been able to show is that this CAR T he’s developed will kill the cancer cells but it doesn’t touch the healthy cells because they get hidden and the CAR T can’t penetrate them

Chimeric Therapeutics’ Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Chow

“He’s the only one that’s developed this CAR T and Chimeric has the licence for this treatment. It has incredible potential – the scientific field and clinicians I talk to are so excited about it.”

“In trials with animals, we killed all the cancer cells with no safety problems at all – and in eight different types of cancer.”

The company says the expanded licence agreed with Penn will aid its goal of persuading the US Federal Drug Authority, or “FDA”, to grant Investigational New Drug, or “IND”, status – a prerequisite to the treatment being trialled on humans.

An application for such status is Chimeric’s next step and it is busy compiling its case that the novel treatment would be effective and safe.

Earlier this month, the company submitted a request to the FDA for a meeting on development path for its IND submission.

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