Tackling Rare and Solid Cancers Head On

Pictured: Carina Biotech Head of Business Development Dr Jane Rathjen and Managing Director Dr Justin Coombs. Photo by Meg Hansen Photography.

2018 was a busy year for South Australia-based Carina Biotech, with many exciting developments. The company is aiming to conduct the first-in-human clinical trial of its CAR-T product candidate in Australia in 2020 and were awarded a Cooperative Research Centres Project (CRC-P) Round 6 grant. 

Carina Biotech’s efforts are focused on researching and developing world-first, effective pan-cancer chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy to treat solid cancers. Their lead product candidate CAR-T cell targets a marker that has been reported in the literature to be found on a diverse and wide range of cancers, and their ground-breaking work is being supported by the Australian Government's BioMedTech Horizons (BMTH) program, delivered by MTPConnect.

Carina Biotech’s lead product candidate CAR-T cell (CNA1003) has demonstrated significant in vitro cancer-killing activity against 14 cancer cell lines across nine different cancers so far. Carina Biotech also have in vivo data of animal safety and tumour growth suppression in mouse xenograft models of human prostate cancer, breast cancer and melanoma.

Carina Biotech’s challenge is to continue to demonstrate the cytotoxicity of CNA1003 in vitro against more cancers and cancer cell lines and a diverse range of solid tumours, but also show efficacy in vivo (animal trials).

Carina Biotech’s CAR-T production team at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, in collaboration with researchers at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in the US state of Washington have also developed a simple, inexpensive and scalable CAR-T manufacturing protocol that can produce clinical-scale doses of CNA1003 within 30 days.

Carina Biotech Managing Director, Dr Justin Coombs, says the BMTH grant has enabled the work to keep continuing.

“The BMTH grant has allowed us to keep progressing with our work to validate CNA1003’s cancer-killing capacity in vitro, and its efficacy in in vivo models,” Dr Coombs says.

“In the BMTH project we’ve already undertaken the first of several planned animal models of human cancer, which will advance us towards taking CNA1003 to a human clinical trial – our ultimate goal.”

With such promising results and the backing of MTPConnect through the BMTH grant, and now further support through the CRC-P program, Carina Biotech is advancing an Australian-developed solid cancer CAR-T therapy towards the world market, and they’re doing so by utilising the multi-disciplinary skills of collaborators spanning the sectors of academic research, clinical medicine and biotechnology with internationally recognised CAR-T research groups.

As Dr Coombs says, it’s cutting-edge work and expertise which is helping to position Australia as a CAR-T development, clinical trial and manufacturing base.

For more information, visit Carina Biotech.