Scottish firm gets EU funding for ‘off the shelf’ cancer cell therapy

Scottish biotech TC BioPharm (TCB) has won European Union funding to develop a new “off-the-shelf” cell therapy for several types of solid tumour cancers.

The 4 million euro (£3.6 million) grant represents the largest EU award to any UK company for development of a healthcare therapy.

TCB’s technology is based around it gamma-delta T-cell (GDT) therapy, an ‘autologous’ cell therapy formulated to treat patients with various tumours including malignant melanoma, kidney, and lung cancer.

Autologous cell therapies use the patient’s own cells to treat their tumour which is a costly and logistically complex approach.

But the grant from the EU Horizon 2020 initiative will allow TCB to develop a next-generation ‘allogeneic’ approach, meaning treatments can be manufactured using existing cells from donors, stored in a bio-bank.

The technique is more scientifically complex because therapeutic cells will have been derived from a single donor to treat many people.

Allogeneic ‘off-the-shelf’ approaches have significant advantages over existing autologous treatments, as a larger target population of cancer sufferers can be treated with a more reproducible product which has been ‘campaign-manufactured’ in bulk to keep costs much lower.

With the EU funding, TCB will manufacture allogeneic cell banks during 2017/18 with a view to treating first cancer patients with the novel approach early in 2019.

The biotech with use its chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to instruct the cells to attack specific tumour types.

This week, Kite Pharma filed its CAR T-cell cancer therapy with EU regulators in a rare form of blood cancer – but this relies on harvesting a patient’s own cells.

Existing CAR-T therapies can only be used for blood cancers, so TCB’s therapy could be a game-changer if its scientists can get it to work in solid tumours.

TCB is working with clinical centres of excellence to treat cancer patients in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, Southampton, London, Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield and Belfast.

It has already raised over 25 million euros (£22.4 million) in funding since commencing operations in February 2014.  It has premises in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, employing over 50 members of staff.

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