CRISPR Modified CAR T-Cells Bolster Immuno Oncology Arsena

CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) and CAR T-cell therapy are genetic technologies that have generated continued excitement during the last several years.  CRISPR is a genome editing tool that allows alteration of a genome.  Compared to other genome editing tools, it is faster, cheaper, and more accurate.  Its applications are numerous, ranging from agriculture to gene therapy.  On the other hand, CAR T-cell therapy is a form of adoptive cellular immunotherapy.  Adoptive cellular immunotherapy involves infusion of cells into a patient to help the patient’s immune system fight disease.  In CAR T-cell therapy, the infused cells are a type of immune cell known as T-cells.  Significantly, these cells are derived from the very patient undergoing therapy and modified genetically prior to being transferred back into the patient to destroy cancer cells.

Both technologies are experiencing exponential growth.  A recent patent landscaping studythat considered patent publications since January 2007, identified 4800 unique CRSPR related patent applications spread across about 1750 INPADOC (International Patent Documentation) families.  As to CAR T-cell therapy, adoptive cellular immunotherapy, generally, was named as the Clinical Cancer Advance of the Year 2018 by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  Also, in 2017, FDA approved the first two CAR T-cell therapies, Kymriah™ and Yescarta™, indicated, respectively, for a form of leukemia and a form of lymphoma.

While CAR T-cell therapy holds great promise in the fight against cancer, significant hurdles remain preventing realization of its full potential.  Several innovative approaches are under investigation to overcome these hurdles.  The present article provides a peek into this area of innovation by focusing on the invention described in a recently published patent application, WO/2018/115887, relating to novel CAR T-cells engineered using CRISPR.  Improvements described in WO/2018/115887 are designed to dramatically simplify CAR T-cell therapy and has the potential to significantly bring down the cost of the therapy.  Currently, CAR T-cell therapy is highly expensive.  According to a recent report, a single dose of Kymriah™, (which, incidentally, is sufficient), costs $475,000.

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