- MD Anderson has developed a novel approach to cancer immunotherapy, and Intrexon and Ziopharma have invested $100 million with the expectation of getting five candidates this year.
- The technology, known as chimeric antigen receptors (CAR)-T, uses a non-viral gene transfer system in which the patient's own T cells are removed, modified and re-injected with the goal of having these modified T-cells (injected with targeting CARs) seek out cancerous cells and kill them.
- While MD Anderson is not the first company to use CAR technology, it has generated very positive results in early clinical trials, without some of the dangerous immune responses seen in other programs.
Immunotherapy is a major game-changer for oncology and it seems that every week, there is an announcement about a partnership that has been developed to facilitate development of clinically-validated therapies that leverage that link. MD Anderson's CAR-T technology is a perfect example. Based on promising early-stage clinical trial results and the MD Anderson deal, Ziopharm's shares were up 50%, while Intrexon's shares were up 14%. The non-viral gene transfer system is being called "Sleeping Beauty."