BERGISCH GLADBACH, January 26, 2016 – Cancer is highlighted by the WHO as one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity. For instance, in Europe alone, more than 50,000 people die of leukaemia every year. In response to this major health issue Miltenyi Biotec coordinates the new EU-funded project CARAT taking on the mission to deliver new methods to enable the wide use of novel personalized cancer treatment options based on highly innovative cell therapies. The project consortium comprises a multi-national team of leading experts from eight European partnering institutions. Equipped with a total budget of €6 million CARAT aims to integrate novel cell manufacturing tools and enabling technologies into a new, comprehensive platform that will facilitate the safe, automated, and cost-efficient manufacture of highly effective so-called CAR T cells.
CAR T cell therapy: a revolutionary, highly effective treatment option to cure cancer
Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are specifically tailored surface receptors that can be introduced into cells of the immune system, especially T cells, by genetic engineering. They act as recognition molecules like antibodies or T cell receptors and allow directing of immune responses towards selected targets. T cells are essential for the human immune system as they scan the human body to eliminate infections and abnormalities. In this respect, CARs are increasingly used for cellular therapy to redirect T cells specifically towards killing of cancer cells.
Recent success stories of cancer therapies based on these so-called CAR T cells have raised enormous scientific and public expectations to cure severely ill patients. For example, in a clinical trial of a highly aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the University of Pennsylvania, 89% of the patients, including both children and adults, showed a definite anti-tumour response after receiving a CAR T cell therapy indicating that this could be an effective treatment option. Consequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated T cell treatment in 2014 as a “breakthrough therapy” for relapsed and treatment-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in adults and children.
However, translation into the clinic and broad application of such advanced personalized cell therapy is currently hampered by the technologically complex, costly and error-prone procedure of manufacturing gene-modified T cells for each patient individually. “Our vision is to overcome those hurdles and to elevate cellular therapies to the next level of standard-of-care: It will then be possible to generate the most effective CAR-modified T cell products in a cost-effective and easy-to-handle process that can be readily up-scaled and disseminated worldwide”, Dr Andrew Kaiser, scientific coordinator of the CARAT consortium at Miltenyi Biotec, underlines the overall goal of the project. Thereby, CARAT will contribute to empowering Europe into becoming a global leader in the development, delivery and commercialisation of CAR T cell technologies with the ultimate goal of serving patients with so far incurable hematologic malignancies and solid tumours like colon, pancreas or lung cancer.
Consequently, CARAT will enable clinical investigators and companies to focus on treatments rather than hurdles and thus be instrumental in the implementation of improved and more accessible treatment options that harness the strengths of the immune system. All available clinical findings on CAR T cell therapy, in particular the efficacy and long-lasting effect, suggest this approach will have a clear and profound effect upon quality of life of cancer patients. Therefore, a high acceptance of the therapy among patients can be expected. Successful implementation of this therapeutic option will expand the number of patients with access to these novel cellular therapies and thus more patients should be able to return to normal working lives after treatment. This in turn will have an obvious social and economic impact.
Taken together, these impacts of CARAT are revolutionary: the project aims to change the face of modern medicine by helping to bring a whole new class of cancer therapeutics to clinical practice.
About Miltenyi Biotec
Miltenyi Biotec is a global provider of products and services that advance biomedical research and cellular therapy. The company’s innovative tools support research at every level, from basic research to translational research to clinical application. This integrated portfolio enables scientists and clinicians to obtain, analyze, and utilize the cell. Miltenyi Biotec’s technologies cover techniques of sample preparation, cell isolation, cell sorting, flow cytometry, cell culture, molecular analysis, and preclinical imaging. Their more than 25 years of expertise spans research areas including immunology, stem cell biology, neuroscience, and cancer, and clinical research areas like hematology, graft engineering, and apheresis. In their commitment to the scientific community, Miltenyi Biotec also offers comprehensive scientific support, consultation, and expert training. Today, Miltenyi Biotec has more than 1,500 employees in 25 countries – all dedicated to helping researchers and clinicians around the world make a greater impact on science and health.
Name: CARAT – Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) for Advanced Therapies
Start date: 2016-01-01
Duration: 48 months
Coordination: Miltenyi Biotec GmbH, Germany
The partners in CARAT at a glance:
Emmanuel Donnadieu: Institut Cochin, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, Paris
Andrew Kaiser: Miltenyi Biotec GmbH, Bergisch Gladbach
Christian Buchholz: Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines), Langen
Toni Catthomen: Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Freiburg
Janine Jost: European Research and Project Office GmbH, Saarbrücken
Attilio Bondanza: Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan
Martin Pule: University College London, London
Matthew Lakelin: TrakCel Ltd., Cardiff
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