Allogene sets sights on iPS cell-based allogeneic therapies via Notch partnership

Allogene has staked its claim in iPS cell-based allogeneic therapies by partnering with Notch to develop T cell and NK cell therapies to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.

Moving beyond healthy donor cells to use iPS cells for allogeneic therapies is “what we see as the evolution of the field and the future of cell therapy,” Allogene Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:ALLO) President and CEO David Chang told BioCentury. “This is a space we have to have a play in.”

Notch Therapeutics Inc. will be responsible for preclinical research while Allogene will be in charge of clinical development. Chang estimated the partners will have an IND-ready product in a couple of years.

Allogene will have exclusive, worldwide rights to any resulting products and gains a 25% equity stake in Notch. The company will also have a seat on Notch’s board. Notch will receive $10 million up front and is eligible for $294.3 million in milestones.

Helmed by former executives of CAR T company Kite Pharma Inc., Allogene has a pipeline of off-the-shelf allogeneic CAR T products spun out from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE). The company, which launched in November 2017, had amassed $420 million in private funding before raising $324 million in an October 2018 IPO -- the biggest of that year (see “Allogeneic CARs on the Horizon”).

iPS cells can be clonally expanded after genetic engineering, leading to a more homogeneous allogeneic therapy than one based on donor cells, which are edited in bulk, Chang said. Potential edits include removing risks of both graft-versus-host and host-versus-graft diseases, as well as increasing the cells’ potency.

While standard iPS cell platforms require support cells to induce differentiation -- which can limit scaleability -- Notch’s Engineered Thymic Niche (ETN) platform relies on synthetic reagents instead.

Chang said he isn’t aware of another company using an ETN platform, which he cited as one of Notch’s main draws, along with the company’s co-founders, who are the pioneers of iPS cell differentiation.

Notch was formed in 2018 to develop research from the labs of Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker and Peter Zandstra. Zúñiga-Pflücker is senior biology scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and chair of the department of immunology at the University of Toronto; Zandstra is a professor of biomaterials and biomedical engineering at the university.

Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners also helped found the company, as did the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, which incubated Notch.

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