Cell Therapy Catapult signs major development agreement with Asterias Biotherapeutics
Will provide manufacturing scale-up services to enable Asterias’ future clinical trials and commercial supply for AST-VAC2
The Cell Therapy Catapult, the UK organisation dedicated to the growth of the UK cell and gene therapy industry by bridging the gap between scientific research and commercialisation, has signed an agreement with US company Asterias Biotherapeutics that engages the Cell Therapy Catapult to advance development of large-scale manufacturing processes for AST-VAC2, Asterias’ allogeneic dendritic cell immunotherapy. As a part of the agreement, Asterias will be opening a UK subsidiary and employing staff based in the UK.
The Cell Therapy Catapult will streamline and scale manufacturing processes for Asterias’ AST-VAC2 and its forthcoming phase II clinical trial targeting lung cancer. This will provide support that will enable advanced clinical trials and eventual commercialisation of the immunotherapy product. AST-VAC2 is an allogeneic (non-patient specific) cancer vaccine designed to stimulate patient immune responses to telomerase, which is expressed in over 95% of human cancers but is rarely expressed in normal adult cells. AST-VAC2 is currently being developed towards a Phase I/II trial in lung cancer in collaboration with Cancer Research UK.
Asterias selected the Cell Therapy Catapult because of its depth of expertise in cell therapy and the head start the Cell Therapy Catapult had on the challenge due to its own internal Cell Plasticity Platform Project, which is developing large-scale manufacturing processes for pluripotent cells. Asterias believes the Cell Therapy Catapult is an important driver in making the UK an environment that facilitates and supports the development of regenerative medicine products.
As part of the agreement, Asterias plans a UK subsidiary, which will provide the company with the ability to effectively collaborate with the Cell Therapy Catapult and other major partners in the UK. Asterias will also use the UK operation to play a critical role in contributing to the development of the AST-VAC2 platform and maximising its value.
'International partnerships are critical for the further development of the UK cell and gene therapy industry. The Cell Therapy Catapult has been instrumental in attracting Asterias, a leading US quoted cell therapy company to the UK,' said Keith Thompson, CEO, the Cell Therapy Catapult. 'This is an example of how our core platform projects, which aim to overcome major industry challenges, can be leveraged to promote growth of the UK industry.'
'The establishment of a subsidiary in the UK provides Asterias with the ability to effectively collaborate with the Cell Therapy Catapult at a low cost in the medium term while providing a base from which to grow our AST-VAC2 platform and maximise its value,' said Pedro Lichtinger, chief executive officer, Asterias.
'This collaboration with the Cell Therapy Catapult allows Asterias to accelerate its development of manufacturing processes that will be compatible with the commercial needs of our cell based products,' added Dr Katy Spink, chief operating officer, Asterias. 'The collaboration also enhances our strategic relationships in the UK, an environment which facilitates and supports the development of regenerative medicine products.'