UCLH and UCL to pioneer new cancer therapies 

22/01/2015 00:00 
A research programme led by UCLH and UCL to pioneer the next generation of cancer therapies has secured £30m of investment to help develop a new technology called t-cell therapy.
 

T-cells are part of our immune system which normally kill infected cells. They can be taken from a person’s blood sample, grown in the laboratory and ‘re-programmed’ to recognise and kill cancer cells as they would naturally attack an infection.

This re-programming is achieved by introducing a gene for an artificial protein called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR for short. Early clinical trials in the US have shown that CAR T-cells could be highly effective in treating patients with leukaemias and lymphomas which have failed to respond to standard anti-cancer treatments.

The new therapies are based on the work of UCLH consultant Dr Martin Pule. Dr Pule said: “Our research is the culmination of many years work which would not have been possible without public and charitable funding.

“This new investment means we now have the resources to accelerate development and clinical testing of these exciting technologies. We will also be able to access the considerable talent and knowledge available in the UK industrial biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors.”

Professor Bryan Williams, Director of Research at UCLH and Director of the NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, said: “Our world class science base means we can develop and deliver new treatments to improve the outcomes of patients. Partnerships between leading universities and NHS hospitals are critical to enable the UK to stay at the leading edge of medical developments and improve patients’ chances of survival when all else fails.”

Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive, said: “This is an exciting development in the search for new therapies which has been made possible by the excellent research relationship which we and UCL enjoy. That is vital to the search for medical breakthroughs which could have huge implications for cancer treatment.”

The investment will help to fund clinical trials of the treatment, supported by the Government’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and led by UCLH and UCL.
Healthcare investment company, Syncona, working with UCL Business, has invested the money into a new company called Autolus.  Autolus, which is a UCL ‘spin out’ company, has been set up to develop and commercialise next-generation engineered T-cell therapies for haematological and solid tumours.

Autolus will now be taking forward the research in collaboration with UCL with the aim of progressing to clinical trials.

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