Umoja and TreeFrog team up to overcome challenges facing ex vivo allogeneic therapies

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mass production of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) in a 10L bioreactor using TreeFrog Therapeutics’ C-Stem technology. © TreeFrog Therapeutics
Mass production of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) in a 10L bioreactor using TreeFrog Therapeutics’ C-Stem technology. © TreeFrog Therapeutics

Related tags: Natural killer cells, Allogeneic, induced pluripotent stem cells

Umoja Biopharma and TreeFrog Therapeutics have formed an alliance to address challenges facing ex vivo allogeneic therapies in immuno-oncology, including issues scaling up production to reach all patients.

The partnership combines Umoja’s technologies in gene-edited iPSCs and immune differentiation for persistent anti-tumor activity with TreeFrog’s biomimetic platform for the mass-production of iPSC-derived cell therapies in large-scale bioreactors.

US company, Umoja, is pioneering off-the-shelf, integrated therapeutics that reprogram immune cells to treat patients with solid and hematologic malignancies, and TreeFrog is looking to make safer, more efficient and more affordable cell therapies based on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

The industry challenges that the tech pairing is hoping to address include: The ability to scale iPSC-based culture while maintaining cell health, quality, and efficient immune cell differentiation along with allowing for safe in vivo engraftment and persistence of tumor-killing cells without requirements for toxic lymphodepleting chemotherapy. The latter would provide therapeutic benefit to patients.

Seattle-based Umoja has iPSCs that are engineered with a synthetic rapamycin-activated cytokine receptor (RACR) to drive differentiation to, and expansion of innate cytotoxic lymphoid cells, including but not limited to natural killer (NK) cells in the absence of exogenous cytokines and feeder cells.

French biotech, TreeFrog​, has developed C-Stem technology, which relies on the high-throughput encapsulation of human iPSCs within biomimetic alginate shells, which is said to promote in vivo​-like exponential growth and protect cells from external stress.

In 2021, C-Stem showed it could enable unprecedented iPSC expansion in 10L bioreactors, while preserving stem cell quality, said the developer. Also enabling direct in-capsule iPSC differentiation, C-Stem constitutes a scalable, end-to-end, and GMP-compatible manufacturing platform for iPSC-derived cell therapies, it added.

Partnerships

Frédéric Desdouits, CEO at TreeFrog, said the biotech’s primary goal is to bring the benefits of the C-Stem technology to patients as fast as possible, either through in-house programs or strategic alliances with cell therapy leaders. “Partnering with Umoja is an important step forward in immuno-oncology​. Besides scale-up and cell quality, the in vivo persistence of allogeneic therapies remains a critical challenge in the industry. We believe Umoja’s platform will allow for safer and more efficient allogeneic cell therapies immuno-oncology.”

"TreeFrog’s C-Stem technology is the perfect complementary development platform for our RACR technology, a pairing which could result in controlled, efficient iPSC expansion and differentiation into immune cells, with improved yields and quality,"​ commented Ryan Larson, VP and head of translational science at Umoja. 

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