Berkeley Lights and MD Anderson launch cell therapy JV

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Berkeley Lights and MD Anderson Cancer Centre have created a company aimed at developing autologous cell therapies to treat solid tumours.

Optera Therapeutics Corp is based in the San Francisco Bay area, and will develop cancer cell therapies under investigation at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

Cancer cell therapies treat patients with their own immune cells, such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) and T cell receptor (TCR) engineered T cells, tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) and endogenous T cells (ETC).

Optera’s cell therapies will then be applied to Berkeley Lights’ scalable cell manufacturing systems.

“Our hope is that by combining our cell therapy research expertise with advanced automation capabilities, we will enhance our ability to deliver these treatments to every patient who needs them,” ​said MD Anderson’s Patrick Hwu in a statement.

Berkeley Lights’ CSO and Optera president Kevin Chapman could not yet disclose if the collaboration will create new jobs.

“We will be able to provide input on the number of employees once the management team is in place,” ​he told us.


With regards to the commercialisation of investigational therapies, Chapman told us licensing is always an option.

“In some instances the fastest route for some of the those therapies may be to license to a partner that can bring that therapy to market faster.

“It is too early to comment on types of models that can be used,” ​he added.

Berkeley Lights tech

The California-headquartered firm is developing a cellular therapy manufacturing platform named ‘SearchLight.’

According to Berkeley Lights, the automated, good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant platform is designed to manufacture allogeneic and autologous cell therapies.

“SearchLight enables the selection and activation of desired cells, assembling into precise personalized therapies that harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease.”

The firm’s automated biological workflow platform for cell line development and antibody discovery has also attracted interest of late.

Over the past year, a number of pharmaceutical companies have licensed Berkeley Lights’ Beacon platform, including Teva Pharmaceuticals Australia​, Bayer​, Novartis​, and Pfizer​.

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