Luminary Therapeutics, Case Western Team Up to Develop New CAR T-Cell Therapy

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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Luminary, Case Western collaboration

Luminary Therapeutics will collaborate with researchers at Case Western Reserve University to develop a new form of CAR T-cell therapy that uses the B-cell activating factor (BAFF) target as a treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome and mantle cell lymphoma.

The agreement includes an option for Luminary to exclusively license the new BAFF target, discovered by a Case Western professor.

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, more commonly known as CAR T-cell therapy, is a type of immunotherapy in which a patient’s immune T-cells are collected and re-engineered in the lab to better recognize and eliminate cancer cells. After that, the modified cells are grown in the lab and then re-introduced back into the patient.

Luminary’s LMY-920 is a new form of non-viral CAR T-cell therapy that uses the genetically-modified T-cells containing the BAFF target. That target was originally uncovered by Reshmi Parameswaran, PhD, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. With the new agreement now in place, Luminary will hold an exclusive license that will enable it to use the BAFF target in other CAR T-cell constructs.

“Our rationale for choosing to collaborate with Luminary Tx is due to their non-viral approach for clinical development with our BAFF target,” Michael Haag, executive director of technology management at Case Western, said in a press release.

“We believe that Luminary’s experience and flexibility can move this asset into the clinic faster than other therapeutic companies,” Haag said.

BAFF enables modified T-cells to recognize three different receptors — BAFF, BCMA, and TACI — on the surface of malignant and inflammatory B-cells. Engineered T-cells containing the BAFF target tend to bind and destroy mature B-cells containing one of these three receptors, while sparing immature B-cells.

“This next generation BAFF CAR offers the promise of treating B-cell malignancies without total loss of a patient’s healthy B-cells as well as offering the promise of a reduction in antigen escape during the treatment regimen,” said Beau Webber, Luminary’s chief scientific officer.

Luminary now intends to conduct a series of preclinical studies on LMY-920 to support the future submission of an investigational new drug application (IND). That application will enable the company to advance its new CAR T-cell therapy into clinical testing.

First on the company’s plans are the launch of two Phase 1 trials testing LMY-920 in people with mantle cell lymphoma and Sjogren’s syndrome.

“Our development plan focuses on non-viral CAR-T platforms that can speed our time to the clinic well ahead of other virus-based approaches,” said Jeff Liter, CEO of Luminary.

The collaboration also will enable the company to benefit from the expertise of researchers at Case Western. The university’s infrastructures and manufacturing facilities — notably its Cellular Therapy Laboratory, an on-site state-of-the-art cell manufacturing center — also will expedite the creation of modified T-cells at a lower cost.