Shinanomainichi news posted about new research project for CAR-T cell therapy.

Shinshu University establishes a domestic base in Ina toward the practical application of new cancer treatment “CAR-T cell therapy”

Shinano Mainichi News as of September 21, 2018 Translated by Ina Research

Shinshu University (headquartered in Matsumoto City) will establish a “Gene/Cell Therapy Research and Development Center” (tentative name), a facility for safety studies of “CAR-T cell therapy,” a new immune cell therapy for cancer, at Ina Research Inc. (Ina City) according to a source on September 20. The center will also provide services including safety studies of medical products. The center is planned to become fully operational in fiscal 2019. It was initiated as a government-commissioned project aimed at improving the infrastructure of gene/cell therapy, a field in which global competition is intensifying. It is expected to serve as a domestic center to pursue the practical application of this therapy.

In CAR-T cell therapy, “T-cells,” – a type of immune cell – are extracted from the body of a cancer patient, and the gene is engineered so that it only attacks cancer cells. They are then returned to the body of the patient for treatment. In the United States, the therapy has already been practically used for some leukemia patients. In Japan, universities across the country, including Shinshu University, as well as pharmaceutical companies have started to develop the therapy.

The therapy, however, has been reported to have serious side effects, and it is becoming increasingly important to confirm its safety in large animals close to humans before putting the therapy to practical use. The Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED), an organization that commissioned this project, expects the center to play a role as a “platform (basis) for evaluating safety.”

The center, which will be set up in the test building of Ina Research, is intended to establish a system for verifying safety by giving CAR-T cells to monkeys. Yozo Nakazawa, 47, a professor at Shinshu University School of Medicine who leads the establishment of the center, has already succeeded in creating CAR-T cells from monkey cells. The technique will be transferred to the center, which plans to conduct safety studies for this therapy for other universities and pharmaceutical companies from FY 2023.

About 500 million yen is expected to be spent to set up the center and to conduct research and development over a maximum period of six years.

In addition to CAR-T cells for the treatment of blood cancers such as acute lymphatic leukemia, Professor Nakazawa is pursing the development of CAR-T cells targeted at multiple solid cancers in collaboration with Shigeki Yagyu, Assistant Professor at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. The center will give priority to studies for solid cancers for the time being, and Professor Nakazawa commented, “It is an important step to prevent CAR-T from ending in failure in the research stage. We hope to provide the therapy for many patients.”

(September 21)