Cell Medica is buying Catapult Therapy TCR and the firm's gene-modified WT1-TCR (Wilms' tumor 1 protein–T-cell receptor) T-cell therapy candidate. The treatment is currently in Phase I/II development for the potential treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

Catapult Therapy TCR is a special purpose vehicle established by The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult), UCL Business (UCLB), and Imperial lnnovations to develop the WT1-TCR T-cell therapy, which was originally discovered by researchers at University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Cell Medical says it plans to apply its Dominant TCR platform to generate a more effective WT1-TCR product that could also feasibly be used to treat challenging solid tumors, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. The firm acquired the Dominant TCR technology from UCLB in 2016.

London, U.K.-based Cell Medica and CGT Catapult will carry out further development of the next generation of T cells, and manufacturing process, at the latter’s recently built large-scale cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at the Stevenage BioScience Catalyst, U.K. A Phase I/II study with the enhanced Dominant WT1-TCR candidate is projected to start during late 2018.

“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 tumors 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.”

With support from Innovate UK, CGT Catapult operates as a Centre of Excellence for Innovation to help drive growth of the U.K.’s cell and gene therapy industry and translate early-stage research into new therapies. “We are pleased that Cell Medica has acquired the WT1 T-cell immunotherapy,” added Keith Thompson, CEO at CGT Catapult. “With their complementary technologies, they will take over the development of this exciting new therapy. The next-generation product developed in our manufacturing center underlines our ability to support the localization of cell manufacturing processes in the U.K.”

Cell Medica is exploiting its proprietary activated T-cell chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and engineered TCR platforms to develop cellular immunotherapies targeting cancer. Lead product CMD-003 (baltaleucel-T) is being evaluated in the Phase II CITADEL study as a treatment for advanced lymphomas associated with the oncogenic Epstein-Barr virus. In March, Cell Medica raised £60 million (approximately $76 million) in a Series C investment round to support development of its pipeline.

The firm has an ongoing CAR development partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and is working with UCL to leverage the Dominant TCR technology. Cell Medica’s acquisition of Delenex Therapeutics in mid-2016 gave the firm an antibody fragment platform for use in developing anticancer CAR-NKT (natural killer T cells) products, and additional immune cell engineering expertise.

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