The company’s technology works to improve upon traditional checkpoint inhibition therapies by combining chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy with PD-1 pathway inhibition.
Through Innovative Cellular Therapeutics (ICT)’s investigational therapies patient’s T-cells have PD-1 surface proteins that compete with PD-L1 ligand proteins on the tumor. The T-cells can remain active in this therapy and continue to work on the cancer cells with antigens present within the traditional CAR-T therapy.
The therapy in development by ICT, ICTCAR014, is for the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Lei Xiao, founder and CEO of ICT, told us, “While CAR-T therapy has revolutionized treatments for cancer, there are still high unmet needs in the field of oncology that need to be addressed with urgency.”
Building on CAR-T technology for solid tumors
Outside of its use in treating lymphomas, the platform technology used in ICTCAR014 is currently in a clinical development program working to treat a range of solid tumors.
Working to develop therapies to treat solid tumors is helping drive the industry towards CAR-T development, according to Xiao.
In July 2018, Kite (now part of Gilead) and Gadeta collaborated to research and develop T cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumors. The partnership works to use alpha beta T cells that are engineered with gamma delta T cells receptors, which are believed to be able to recognize targets in solid cancer cells.
However, Xiao said that since there are currently “no effective treatments for overcoming the challenging tumor microenvironment that is especially hostile to current therapies,” the industry has seen a significant challenge addressing the area. Therefore, focus on building on to CAR-T technology can move forward the industry to develop therapies for solid tumors.
He noted that there are currently only two existing CAR-T therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of lymphoma: Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel), which see remission rates of “around 50%” after treatment.
Automated CAR-T manufacturing
Xiao also explained that the current FDA approved CAR-T cell manufacturing process is labor intensive. Manufacturing CAR-T treatments require using a patient’s own blood, making the process complex.
The treatments are produced through the isolation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, including T-cells, from the patient’s own white blood cells which are then stimulated to proliferate and transduced with a retroviral vector to introduce the CAR sequence. This process can potentially be inefficient in getting the treatment to the patient.
Due to this, ICT adopted an automated process for cell manufacturing in which it manufactures its CAR-T cells in a closed system to prevent contamination throughout the process.
“This automated feature will also allow ICT to scale processing and therefore more quickly accommodate increasing clinical demand,” said Xiao.
The company is currently outsourcing its manufacturing needs to support its clinical activities but is planning on initiating an independent commercial manufacturing capacity following licensing.