Innovative immunotherapies for cancer are a step closer to reality thanks to an agreement between Australia’s Cartherics Pty Ltd and Seoul-based ToolGen Inc.

Left and middle images from left to right: Jongmoon Kim CEO ToolGen, Alan Trounson CEO Cartherics, Robert Moses Chairman of the Board Cartherics

Right image from left to right:  Jongmoon Kim CEO ToolGen, Robert Moses Chairman of the Board Cartherics, Alan Trounson CEO Cartherics

The agreement, signed in Melbourne on 21 January 2019, enables the companies to share Cartherics’ expertise in immunology and stem cell science and ToolGen’s gene editing technology in a joint research project aimed at boosting the ability of a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. To date, cell therapies for cancers are developed for individual patients at a high cost in time and money. Furthermore, these treatment options are restricted for its use to certain cancer types.

The collaboration with ToolGen aims to overcome these disadvantages by accelerating Cartherics’ goal of developing accessible off-the-shelf effective immune cell therapies for aggressive diseases such as relapsed ovarian and bowel cancers.

Alan Trounson Cartherics CEO explains: “The new collaborative agreement with the pharmaceutical company ToolGen Inc. is a major step forward for Cartherics in the development of effective new off-the-shelf immune stem cell therapies.”

“This innovative program will enable precision gene editing of our stem cells to increase their ability to track and destroy targeted tumours. The collaboration will merge very effective gene, stem cell and CAR-T cell technologies in the two companies for advanced cancer therapies,” Trounson added.

The new partnership also reflects ToolGen’s growing influence in the global biotechnology sector.

“This collaboration agreement with Cartherics indicates wide applicability of our gene editing technology to various cell types including immune and pluripotent stem cells. Throughout this collaboration, we will develop effective cell therapies against cancers,” says Jongmoon Kim, ToolGen CEO.

In healthy individuals, immune system cells called T-cells identify and kill infected or abnormal cells, including cancer cells.  Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to target and kill these invaders by arming T-cells with ‘seek and destroy’ capacity.

In their joint research project, Cartherics and ToolGen will focus on enhancing the cancer-killing ability of Chimeric antigen receptor T-Cells, or CAR-T cells.  These are engineered molecules that, when present at the surface of T‐cells, recognize cancer cells and activate killer T-cells.

Cartherics will bring to the table CAR-T cells targeting one or more tumour targets, which it derived from either patient T-cells or those created using iPSCs, a form of stem cell.

ToolGen will contribute advanced technology for editing the genetic material in the CAR-T cells. The technology is based on the CRISPR/Cas9 approach. (CRISPR/Cas9 is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.)

ToolGen also has Intellectual Property on the inhibitory effect that a molecule called diacylglycerol kinase (DKG) has on T-cell function.  Using ToolGen’s technology, Cartherics will investigate whether CAR-T cells engineered to be DKG deficient, trigger a stronger immune response than CAR-T cells containing this key gene.

·     Jongmoon Kim
·     Alan Trounson and Robert Moses

Attended the signing of the Research Agreement.

WHEN: 12:15pm Eastern Australia time
WHERE: Cartherics Pty Ltd, Level 7 MHTP, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, 27-13 Wright Street, Clayton 3168 VIC, Australia
CONTACT: For further information contact Karen Loudon on 0430 728 733 or 03 8572 2500.