apceth and University of Cologne join forces on immunotherapies for cancer

The collaboration is based on combinations of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and apceth-developed engineered mesenchymal stem cells

apceth has announced a broad partnership with the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne, to develop immunotherapies for solid tumours and haematological malignancies.

The collaboration will start immediately and is based on combinations of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and apceth-developed engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

apceth is developing autologous (patient-derived) and allogeneic (off-the-shelf) engineered MSCs that migrate to tumours and sites of injury or inflammation, based on their natural homing capabilities, where they express therapeutic transgenes. This collaboration will focus on the use of engineered MSCs to promote the local activation of CART cells within tumours.

Dr Christine Günther, CEO of apceth, said: ‘Immunotherapies have revolutionised cancer care and brought hope to many patients. However, the tumour specificity of many of these approaches remains suboptimal. We see the powerful combination of apceth gmMSCs with CARTs as a great opportunity to overcome some of these barriers and boost the specificity and clinical efficacy of CART cell approaches.’

‘We are delighted to be working alongside Prof. Hinrich Abken, a pioneer in the field with tremendous experience in CART biology and see many synergies with apceth’s gmMSC platform technology and our track record in preclinical and clinical development of genetically modified cells for clinical trials,’ she added.

Prof. Abken, Head of Tumour Genetics at the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, said: ‘Combining apceth’s gmMSCs with CAR T-cells may open new paths for the treatment of solid cancers. Tumours have developed multiple strategies to resist an immune attack; we are aiming at focusing the power of the immune system towards the tumour lesion in a specific way while minimising systemic side-effects.’

Under the terms of the agreement, apceth will develop and optimise gmMSCs that can generate a pro-inflammatory tumour micro-environment. These will be combined with different CART cells developed by Prof. Abken against multiple pre-agreed cancer-specific markers found on solid tumours and haematological malignancies, and tested in various preclinical models. Successful candidates will be optimised and further developed for clinical trials.

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