SEOUL -- ToolGen, a South Korean developer of genome editing technology, has a technology transfer deal with Cartherics Pty, a biotech startup in Australia, for the development of next-generation gene therapy using third-generation genetic scissors to cut out genetic information in cells. The Australian company aims to carry out first-stage clinical trials for ovarian cancer in the United States in 2022.
Toolgen said it would receive a certain stake in Cartherics as a down payment, about 150 billion won ($132 million) for milestones, and royalties later. The contract is about the right to develop immune cell therapy for tumor-associated glycoprotein 72 (TAG-72), an oncofetal antigen highly expressed in ovarian cancers, by combining Toolgen's gene correction improvement technology.
"This technology transfer has provided conditions for Toolgen's next-generation CAR-T technology to advance to clinical trials next year," Toolgen CEO Kim Young-ho said in a statement on June 28. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are receptor proteins that have been engineered to give T cells the new ability to target a specific protein. CAR-T cell therapy uses T cells engineered with CARs for cancer therapy.
Toolgen has developed a technology to induce excellent anticancer effects by maintaining the high activity of T cells by knocking out genes related to suppressing T-cell function through genetic correction. In particular, the company aims to overcome the challenges of existing CAR-T treatments that do not work well in solid cancer.
Toolgen has carried out a joint study with Cartherics to develop cell therapy with enhanced anti-cancer function. The company said that Cartherics' next-generation TAG-72 CAR-T applied with gene correction technology has significantly improved therapeutic efficacy and sustainability in cell and animal models.
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