Bellicum Pharmaceuticals receives $5.7M commercialization award from CPRIT

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HOUSTON—Bellicum Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced March 25 that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) will be giving it a $5.7 million commercialization award  in the second round of this award program. Reportedly, Bellicum was the only company recommended for funding in this round, and the funds will support personnel, manufacturing and clinical testing of Bellicum's CaspaCIDe therapy, which is anticipated by the company to substantially improve outcomes for late stage cancer patients.

CaspaCIDe is Bellicum's potential solution to the problem of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD), a debilitating and often fatal side effect of bone marrow transplantation. Originally developed by Bellicum's chief scientific officer, Dr. David Spencer, who is vice chair of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, the therapeutic candidate was advanced into clinical trials by Dr. Malcolm Brenner, director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine.

"For cancer patients with high risk leukemias and lymphomas, a bone marrow transplant offers a chance of a cure, but mortality from the procedure is high," says Dr. Kevin Slawin, Bellicum's founder, chairman and chief medical officer. "In this application, CaspaCIDe provides a rapid and effective means to resolve GvHD, the number one problem facing transplant patients and their physicians today. More broadly, it has the potential to transform medicine by enabling a wide range of new, safer, more effective cell therapies."

CaspaCIDe works by allowing the transplant physician to selectively eliminate transplanted cells that cause GvHD. Building on promising early clinical results seen in Dr. Brenner's CASPALLO trial, the CPRIT award will support the execution of a randomized, double-blind clinical trial in patients with high risk hematologic malignancies.

CPRIT was established to expedite cancer research innovation and commercialization and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state of Texas. Company commercialization awards are considered a critical part of the institute's initiative to support the advancement of the most promising opportunities toward regulatory approval and market launch. The state has, thus far, announced more than $500 million in awards and matching funds for innovative cancer research and prevention programs.

The application review process included in-depth evaluation by scientific and commercialization experts, followed by regulatory, product development and intellectual property due diligence. Acceptance of the award is subject to the completion of contract negotiations.

"We are pleased to have been recommended for a significant $5.7 million award from CPRIT to advance our novel therapy for patients with high risk cancers," says Bellicum CEO Tom Farrell. "We are especially pleased to receive this notice given the rigorous review of our application by the CPRIT Commercialization Review Council, whose members have substantial scientific, venture capital and commercial expertise."

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