By retooling chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell technology to kill autoimmune cells rather than tumor cells, a University of Pennsylvania team is creating therapies for autoimmune diseases to be as effective as those for cancer, with fewer liabilities.
UPenn has a long history with CAR T cells, as the home of some of the technology's pioneers, who invented the CAR T therapy CTL019 licensed to Novartis AG under a 2012 global research and licensing agreement. The university and Novartis have the therapy in Phase II trials for several blood cancers.
The approach - now standard in CAR T cell therapy - uses cytotoxic T cells to attack tumors by engineering the cells to be activated by cancer-specific antigens.
Now, a UPenn group working outside the cancer field has adapted the approach for autoimmunity,