A revolutionary cancer treatment will become affordable to more New Zealanders, through a new commercial partnership and the arrival of technology that can manufacture it at low cost.
A new partnership was launched today at the Malaghan Research Institute in Wellington, attended by the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Megan Woods.
Through the formation of new company BioOra, by the Malaghan Institute and Bridgewest Ventures NZ, the therapy can now be manufactured and delivered for a fraction of current costs.
CAR T-cell therapy is a treatment that works by training a patient's immune cells (T cells) in the laboratory to identify and kill cancer cells when returned to their body.
In partnership with Wellington Zhaotai Therapies, the Malaghan Research institute has been developing and trialling CAR T-cell therapy in New Zealand, while also undertaking research to extend it to other cancers.
Malaghan Institute Clinical director Dr Robert Weinkove said the new method of manufacturing provided by BioOra would enable them to shorten production times and increase availability.
The partnership was launched today at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington. Photo / Supplied
"We are planning a series of CAR T-cell manufacturing and clinical improvements – including automated manufacture – to improve patient experience and widen availability," he said.
"We now have the opportunity to scale-up CAR T-cell manufacture, with the goal of improving both affordability and availability of this potentially life-saving therapy in New Zealand."
Malaghan Institute general manager Mike Zablocki said the partnership is one step closer to making the therapy available across New Zealand.
"Bridgewest has extensive commercial pharmaceutical and biological manufacturing experience," he said.
"It has the depth of capital to invest in the technology and infrastructure needed to scale up the CAR T-cell manufacturing processes that the Malaghan Institute has developed."
BioOra Director and Bridgewest Ventures NZ general manager John Robson said the automation of CAR T-cell therapy will also transform how it is delivered.
"Global research is focused on extending CAR T-cell therapy to solid cancers, and automation will allow us to bring more innovative therapies to New Zealand.
"Our goal is to make New Zealand a leading provider of CAR T-cell treatments by attracting developers of best-in-class therapies."
The Malaghan Institute is currently conducting a Phase 1 safety trial for a new CAR T-cell model for relapsed B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and they plan for a new automated manufacturing process later in the year.
Philanthropic and government funding - including through MBIE's Partnership Scheme – have also been critical in the success of the scheme, says the Institute.