Cell Medica today announced the acquisition of Catapult Therapy TCR Limited, a subsidiary of Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult), and the initiation of a collaboration to establish cell therapy manufacturing for Cell Medica at CGT Catapult’s GMP manufacturing facility in Stevenage, UK. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Catapult Therapy TCR Ltd is a special purpose company set up by CGT Catapult, UCL Business and Imperial Innovations, and managed by CGT Catapult, for the development of the WT1 T cell receptor (TCR) cell therapy discovered through research at University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London. The WT1-TCR cell therapy enhances the immune system to fight cancer by genetically engineering the patient’s T cells to target WT1, a tumour-associated antigen which is expressed in both solid tumours and blood cancers.

CGT Catapult has been developing the WT1-TCR cell therapy for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. Early development work, including initiation of a Phase I trial, was conducted at UCL and Imperial College London with funding from the UK charity Bloodwise. CGT Catapult advanced the product to a larger Phase I/II clinical trial and developed an improved manufacturing process.  Having completed the treatment of eight patients with promising results, CGT Catapult will now transfer the WT1-TCR cell therapy rights to Cell Medica for continued development towards regulatory approval.

The WT1-TCR cell therapy will be integrated with the Dominant TCR platform technology which Cell Medica licensed from UCL Business in 2016.  Applying the Dominant TCR technology to the WT1-TCR cell therapy is expected to result in a more efficacious product with the potential to treat patients with solid tumours such as mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, which have proven very difficult to treat with conventional therapies.  Cell Medica is planning to initiate a Phase I/II clinical trial with a Dominant WT1-TCR version in late 2018.

Cell Medica and CGT Catapult have also initiated a collaboration to establish cell therapy manufacturing operations for Cell Medica at the GMP production facility recently built by CGT Catapult in Stevenage.  The collaboration will include transferring the current WT1-TCR cell therapy manufacturing process to Stevenage over the next twelve months while Cell Medica and CGT Catapult work to develop a commercial scale production process using advanced manufacturing techniques.  Cell Medica will also evaluate the feasibility of manufacturing additional cell therapy products at the site.

“The acquisition of the WT1-TCR cell therapy leverages the investment we made in 2016 for exclusive rights to the Dominant TCR technology,” said Gregg Sando, CEO of Cell Medica. “Our objective is to show how we can enhance any existing TCR cell therapy with the Dominant TCR technology to create a more effective treatment for patients with solid tumours who otherwise have a very poor prognosis. We are also looking forward to an important collaboration with CGT Catapult to initiate manufacturing at the Stevenage GMP facility where we will work together on scale-up strategies for commercial production.”