Blood cancers

Funding boost to make Peter Mac a CAR T Cell manufacturer

Dr Michael Dickinson

The Federal Government has granted $80 million funding to Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria to kick-start it as a potential CAR T-cell manufacturing hub.

The funding will be supplemented with $25 million investment from the centre’s majority-owned Cell Therapies to create the Peter Mac Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy.

Cell Therapies’ intent, according to its website, is to “become the leading manufacturing and distribution centre of excellence for cellular therapies in the Pan-Asian region”.

Director of Peter Mac’s Cellular Immunotherapy Program Associate Professor Simon Harrison said the funding would expand the capacity of the centre and give more patients access to CAR T-cell therapy.

“Building this manufacturing capacity will mean that Australian patients can have their cells manufactured in Australia and not be reliant on shipping the cells to the United States for processing,” a statement from the centre said.

“This investment will transform our Cellular Immunotherapy Program in to one that is competitive on the world stage and the impact will be felt across the country and the Asia Pacific region,” said Professor Harrison.

Currently the only CAR T-cell therapy treatment approved by the TGA is tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah). This is only available via clinical trials as it awaits consideration for subsidy by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) on March 29.

Dr Michael Dickinson, Lead of the Aggressive Lymphoma stream within Peter Mac’s Integrated Haematology Service told the limbic there were around 30 ALL paediatric and young adult patients Australia-wide for those current TGA-approved commercial indications.

For diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) the estimates range between 200 and 400 patients.

But, he added, for the future of CAR T “the numbers are unknowable” with more than 160 novel CAR T-cell therapies in development around the world.

“The possible future number of indications is vast” he said.

The new funding will allow the Peter Mac centre to manufacture cells for local clinical trials and later for trials in the Asia Pacific region, with an eventual eye to manufacturing CAR T-cells as more therapies are approved in Australia.

The centre will be fitted out with state-of-the-art “clean rooms” and increase capacity from the current 10 to 14 bed/chair clinical units. Peter Mac says the expansion will create 15 new clinical and pre-clinical research jobs and 140 new manufacturing jobs.

The grant also strengthens the position of Victoria in its bid to be seen as the best and brightest location for medical and health research and innovation.

The vision fits neatly with Health Minister Greg Hunt’s previous comments to mainstream media that he would like to see Australia as the southern hemisphere CAR T-cell capital.

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