Carina Biotech, a new biotechnology start-up company developing cellular immunotherapies, particularly for the treatment of childhood cancers, has launched in Adelaide.
Carina Biotech was spun out of the Cooperative Research Centre for Cell Therapy Manufacturing (‘CTM CRC’) to develop a suite of cellular immunotherapy technologies.
Carina’s work will initially focus on developing technologies involving Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells (‘CAR T-cells’), which have shown unprecedented results in clinical trials against leukaemia.
CAR T-cell technology harnesses the killing capacity of a patient’s own immune system and involves engineering a patient’s immune cells (T-cells) to attack cancer. The engineered T-cells are then grown in the lab before being infused back into the patient to find and destroy cancer cells.
“CAR T-cell therapy is yielding stunning results in US-based clinical trials for leukaemia. At the moment, in several clinical trials, over 90% of leukaemia patients are seeing their leukaemia go into complete remission after CAR T-cell treatment,” said Dr Justin Coombs, Managing Director of Carina Biotech.
Dr Coombs highlighted what Carina Biotech hopes to achieve:
“At Carina we plan to commercialise a suite of CTM CRC technologies around producing, growing and delivering T-cells that we will hope will help improve the affordability and accessibility of T-cell immunotherapies.”
“In addition, CAR T-cells can only kill a cancer cell when they have a suitable target on the cancer cell that they can “lock on” to. The target for leukaemia is well known, but the next frontier for CAR T-cells is identifying suitable targets on other cancers. At Carina, we have started work on a new CAR T-cell that we hope might target and kill a range of cancers and not just leukaemia”.
The research underpinning Carina Biotech comes out of the immunotherapy research theme at the Cooperative Research Centre for Cell Therapy Manufacturing.
“For the CRC, this is an exciting development within a relative short time frame, and reflects our passion, dedication and commitment to making cell therapies more affordable and accessible. Carina will advance the immunotherapy-based technologies being developed within the CRC and take them to the market, ensuring they are fast-tracked to the clinic and ultimately, to patients.” Said Dr Sherry Kothari, Managing Director of the CRC.
In addition, Carina’s launch has also been supported by TechInSA (formerly BioSA) and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where much of the CRC immunotherapy research is happening. The Women’s and Children’s Hospital welcomes the possibilities presented by cell therapy and is excited to be part of a major push to investigate how powerful cells in the human immune system can be used to potentially reverse autoimmune diseases and also destroy cancer cells more directly and with fewer side effects.
“TechInSA’s remit is to maximise the outputs of research commercialisation here in South Australia. The launch of Carina is testament to the excellent research and development capacity in this field within the State,” said Dr Meera Verma, Acting Chief Executive, TechInSA. “We are thrilled to have been involved, from an early stage, in a project that has such important potential therapeutic and commercial outcomes as this.”
Mr Sam Tolley, CEO of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation, said that the launch of Carina was not only great news for cancer research, but also for South Australia.
“With around 50 children diagnosed with cancer every year in SA, this research and technology has the potential to change many lives – potentially even on a global scale. The future of our health relies upon quality research, so the more progress we can make in this area now, the better treatments families will have access to,” said Mr Tolley.
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