Carina Biotech to create cancer-busting CAR-T cells using Bionomics antibody

In an exclusive agreement with Bionomics Limited, Australia’s Carina Biotech will create Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR-T cells) and other adoptive cell therapies to the leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5 (LGR5) using the first-in-class humanised antibody BNC101 developed by Bionomics.

LGR5 is a molecular marker that is highly expressed on cancer stem cells within solid tumours including colorectal, breast, pancreatic, ovarian, lung, liver and gastric cancers.

Carina Biotech is a pre-clinical immunotherapy company established to research and develop chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies to treat solid cancers.

This will be Carina’s latest CAR-T cell candidate in a growing pipeline, underpinned by its proprietary platform that produces “supercharged” CAR-T cells.

CAR-T cell therapy is a revolutionary new treatment option for cancer that harnesses the power of the immune system. CAR-T cells are genetically modified immune cells (T cells) that are targeted at certain molecular markers found on cancer cells.

Carina Biotech’s CEO Dr Deborah Rathjen said: “Cancer stem cells, or CSCs, seem to have some kind of resistance to anti-cancer therapies. Anti-cancer drugs can kill proliferating cancer cells but CSCs survive – hence some cancers will respond to initial treatment but inevitably the cancer returns.

“We are excited to have done this deal with Bionomics given the wealth of clinical data available on BNC101. By creating a CAR-T cell that targets CSCs, we will be able to get to the core of some cancers, to kill those cells that enable cancers to keep bouncing back. We hope that LGR5-targeting CAR-T cells will go a long way to achieving our vision – a future that defeats cancer.”

This is the third commercial deal for Carina in three months, following the sale of its first proprietary CAR-T cell to UK company Biosceptre, and a deal with Sydney-based immuno-oncology company Glytherix.

“Our serial-killing CAR-T cells do what so far has been very difficult to do – travel to the site of the cancer and disrupt the immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment. This allows for our CAR-T cells to get up close to cancer cells for potent and repeated killing action,” said Dr Rathjen.

Carina’s platform also enables efficient CAR-T manufacture – reducing manufacturing time, improving yield and quality with CAR-T delivery efficiency of more than 90%.

Under the agreement, Carina will fund all research and development activities. Bionomics is eligible to receive up to A$118 million (about US$91 million) in clinical and development milestones plus royalty payments if Carina fully develops and markets the new therapy.