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Asterias looks to London for AST-VAC2 partner
LONDON—The Cell Therapy Catapult has announced the beginning of a new agreement with Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company specializing in regenerative medicine, that will see the Cell Therapy Catapult advance the development of a large-scale manufacturing process for AST-VAC2, Asterias' allogeneic dendritic cell immunotherapy. In conjunction with this agreement, Asterias will open a U.K. subsidiary and employ staff based in the United Kingdom. This subsidiary will enable Asterias to more effectively collaborate with the Cell Therapy Catapult and other collaborative partners based in the United Kingdom.
“International partnerships are critical for the further development of the U.K. cell and gene therapy industry. The Cell Therapy Catapult has been instrumental in attracting Asterias, a leading U.S. quoted cell therapy company to the U.K.,” Keith Thompson, CEO of the Cell Therapy Catapult, commented in a statement. “This is an example of how our core platform projects, which aim to overcome major industry challenges, can be leveraged to promote growth of the U.K. industry.”
“The establishment of a subsidiary in the UK provides Asterias with the ability to effectively collaborate with the Cell Therapy Catapult at a low cost in the medium term while providing a base from which to grow our AST-VAC2 platform and maximize its value,” added Asterias CEO Pedro Lichtinger.
The Cell Therapy Catapult was selected as a partner given its cell therapy expertise as well as its experience with scaling up cell therapy platforms, as it is advancing its own Cell Plasticity Platform Project, which includes developing large-scale manufacturing processes for pluripotent cells. The organization will help to streamline and scale manufacturing processes for AST-VAC2 and its upcoming Phase 2 clinical trial in lung cancer, which will pave the way for advanced clinical trials and eventual commercialization.
Asterias' AST-VAC2 is an allogeneic cancer vaccine meant to stimulate patient immune responses to telomerase, which is expressed in more than 95 percent of human cancers but rarely expressed by healthy adult cells. It contains mature dendritic cells derived from pluripotent stem cells and is designed to express telomerase; the dendritic cells key the immune system to begin generating responses against telomerase and, in turn, cancer cells. The vaccine is currently under development toward a Phase 1/2 trial in lung cancer in collaboration with the charity Cancer Research UK. Asterias' ongoing partnership with Cancer Research UK covers the first stage of clinical development for AST-VAC2. Cancer Research UK will sponsor and manage a Phase 1/2a clinical trial of the vaccine in patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma to evaluate the safety, immunogenicity and activity of AST-VAC2. Cancer Research UK will also undertake the manufacture of the necessary immunotherapeutic cells to support the trial.
“This collaboration with the Cell Therapy Catapult allows Asterias to accelerate its development of manufacturing processes that will be compatible with the commercial needs of our cell based products,” Dr. Katy Spink, chief operating officer of Asterias, remarked in a press release. “The collaboration also enhances our strategic relationships in the UK, an environment which facilitates and supports the development of regenerative medicine products.”
SOURCE: Cell Therapy Catapult press release