MUNICH & COLOGNE, Germany—apceth (Applied Cell Therapy) has partnered with the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne, to combine technologies and expertise on the development of immunotherapies for solid tumors and hematological malignancies. The collaboration will start immediately and is based on combinations of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cells, developed at the laboratory of Prof. Hinrich Abken against multiple tumor-associated antigens, and apceth-developed engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).
According to apceth, the company is developing autologous (patient-derived) and allogeneic (off-the-shelf) engineered MSCs that migrate to tumors and sites of injury or inflammation, based on their natural homing capabilities, where they express therapeutic transgenes.
CART cells are based on T cells taken from patients and engineered to target and destroy tumor cells that express specific markers. The specificity is dictated by the CARs they express, which also enable them to become activated. The activation, however, is not usually optimal, due to the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, the two organizations said in a statement.
This collaboration will focus on the use of engineered MSCs to promote the local activation of CART cells within tumors. The approach will hopefully increase the specificity of CART immunotherapies, as activation of CART cells will be limited outside of tumors.
Dr. Christine Günther, CEO of apceth, commented: “Immunotherapies have revolutionized cancer care and brought hope to many patients. However, the tumor specificity of many of these approaches remains suboptimal. We see the powerful combination of apceth gm [genetically modified] MSCs 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.”
Prof. Abken, head of Tumor Genetics at the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne and professor at the Dept I for Internal Medicine at the University Hospital Cologne, says he is delighted to be cooperating with apceth: “Combining apceth’s gmMSCs with CAR T-cells we developed in Cologne during the last decade may open new paths for the treatment of solid cancer. Tumors have evolved multiple strategies to resist an immune attack; we are aiming at focusing the power of the immune system towards the tumor lesion in a specific way while minimizing systemic side effects.”
Under the terms of the agreement, apceth will develop and optimize gmMSCs that can generate a pro-inflammatory tumor microenvironment. These will be combined with different CART cells developed by Prof Abken against multiple pre-agreed cancer-specific markers found on solid tumors and hematological malignancies and tested in various preclinical models. Successful candidates will be optimized and further developed for clinical trials.
Privately held apceth is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company which is expanding its pipeline of next-generation cell-based therapeutics. The company’s modular gmMSC platform technology is based on genetically modified MSCs, and the lead program Agenmestencel is a first-in-man, genetically-modified MSC product for the treatment of cancer. In addition, apceth is developing new cell therapy candidates for the treatment of lung diseases and inflammation.
apceth’s proprietary platform technology is based on the use of (adult stem) cells or cell-derived vehicles as intelligent shuttles that deliver drugs, drug candidates or their genetic information almost exclusively to a tumor site or its metastasis, which makes it a key technology for the transportation of disease- and patient-specific genes and (gene) products to be selectively activated onsite.
apceth’s cell-based technology optimizes the on-site efficacy of various drugs as monotherapy but also in combination. Amplifying its natural biology, engineered MSC are able to deliver therapeutic genes under potentially inducible conditions directly to its target, avoiding off-target toxicity and other unwanted side effects.
The Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne, founded in 1994, is a multi-disciplinary center within the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Cologne. It provides a forum that brings together clinicians with research scientists who perform research within an outstanding constellation of faculty and facilities.
The CMMC's mission is to advance the understanding of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms of human diseases as a prelude to improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment of many common health problems. Currently, the CMMC comprises 36 research groups investigating, on the molecular level, the pathogenetic mechanisms of cardiovascular disorders, cancer, inflammatory and infectious diseases as well as neurological disorders.