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August 6, 2012
Novartis Bankrolls T-Cell Cancer Therapies
You may well recall the startling results of a modified T-cell therapy against leukemia that were reported one year ago. I'm happy to report that Novartis is investing in this technology and putting their own considerable amount of development expertise into making it work on a larger scale:
“I never thought this would happen, that the pharma industry would get into ultra-personalized therapy,” (Penn scientist Carl) June said in a telephone interview. “We had lots of venture capital interest, but it’s hard to be a new company and it takes time to get set up. The fastest route to widespread availability is to use an existing company.”
Novartis was one of three companies to negotiate with the university, according to June, who declined to name the other two. Novartis was selected in part because of its experience with Gleevac, a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia. . .
. . .June’s group is now treating 1 patient a week, he said. The Novartis collaboration will help more people get treatment, said June, who is a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University’s Abramson Cancer Center.
In addition to further trials in leukemia, the UPenn group has also engineered trials for lymphoma, mesothelioma, myeloma, and neuroblastoma.
Ah, but in oncology, it's probably going to be the case that every patient will be the subject of personalized therapy, to some degree. So the interest from the big companies makes a lot of sense. Good luck to Novartis and the Penn team - this work has tremendous potential, and I'm very glad to see the funding and manpower come in to investigate it.
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