Current autologous CAR-T approaches will one day meet their expected limitations in scale, speed.
Allogeneic CAR-T therapies will be the next defining advance in the CAR-T space.
In this article, we first review the current landscape of CAR-T then outline the strategic buying opportunity represented by Cellectis, the leading player in allogeneic CAR-T.
Despite recent dips related to early clinical experiences with allogeneic T-cells, Cellectis (CLLS) represents a particularly attractive buying opportunity at this time for the following three reasons: the fact that recent hiccups in preliminary data come from a limited number of patients mostly in dose-finding trials, the potential for a M&A exit given its gene-editing platform value and close collaboration with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), and the inevitable introduction of allogeneic chimeric antigen-specific T-cell (CAR-T) cells into the CAR-T therapy space.
Current landscape of CAR-T cells is defined by autologous approaches
Two major FDA approvals in recent months for CAR-T therapies, Kymriah by Novartis (NVS) and Yescarta by Gilead/Kite (GILD), have signaled that CAR-T therapy is here to stay. Closely trailed by numerous other competitors, Kymriah and Yescarta have thrust the CAR-T space into the biopharma limelight, proving to be one of the most exciting developments in immuno-oncology in the recent decade.
Currently, the approved CAR-T therapies are autologous to the patient. This means that for each patient, the manufacturer must acquire a sample of the patient’s T-cells, re-engineer them to express the correct antitumor chimeric antigens, and then return them to the patient for dosing. The looming question is if this type of individual case-by-case manufacturing process will be viable as CAR-T therapies become more widely used among cancer patients.
The first issue is the manufacturing time. According to Novartis, the total time from T-cell collection to first dose of Kymriah averages about 22 days. Gilead’s Yescarta has announced a median turnaround time of 17 days. These turnaround times are impressive in their own right given the manufacturing process for these therapies. For most patients in this relapsed/refractory target population, however, who often have aggressive disease where treatments are unable to even control disease, waiting nearly 3 weeks for a therapy to arrive is not ideal.
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