New Zealand invests in cutting edge cancer R&D

  • Hon Dr Megan Woods
  • Scaling up the manufacture of CAR T-cell cancer therapy for clinical trials
  • Advancing New Zealand’s biomedical manufacturing capability
  • Supporting future international scientific collaborations
  • Transforming cancer care with targeted, affordable solutions

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Hon Dr Megan Woods has announced that the fight against COVID-19 will not stop the advancement of exciting new innovations in other areas of healthcare, at the launch of BioOra, a new company that aims to scale up the manufacture of CAR T-cell cancer therapy in New Zealand.

BioOra will automate the manufacturing of CAR T-cells using a technology platform which replicates much of what would be done in the lab, making the process more scalable and efficient.

“The work that has gone into this partnership will open the door for more people to receive cutting edge targeted cancer treatment. This research could have a global impact, and I’m proud that this government has been able to support such amazing innovation through the Technology Incubator Programme and the Partnerships Scheme,” says Megan Woods.

“CAR T-cell immunotherapy is a ground-breaking treatment, currently used for certain types of blood cancer, that uses a patient’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells, in a way that is specifically tailored to each patient.

“We have a world-class science and research system that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved to make a real difference to people’s lives, and this partnership is a reflection of that,” Megan Woods said.

The Malaghan Institute is currently conducting a Phase I clinical trial for their CAR T-cell cancer therapy for people with certain types of relapsed and refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma who have exhausted other treatments.

BioOra will develop an automated manufacturing platform for this treatment in New Zealand as the Malaghan Institute works to progress its therapy into Phase II trials, with a long term vision of extending the treatment to other cancers.

Note to Editors

CAR T-cell stands for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell. CAR T-cell therapy works by redirecting a patient’s own immune cells (T-cells) in the laboratory, to directly identify and attack cancer cells. These modified T-cells are then returned to the patient where they can attack and destroy cancer cells. BioOra manufacturing will use an automated, closed-system method of manufacturing CAR T-cells, using the LONZA Cocoon® technology.

Government funding has been able help support the Malaghan Institute to set up five new cocoons in its current suites over the next year, meaning it’ll be able to treat in excess of 100 patients a year, while current capacity only allows treatment of up to 20 patients annually.

BioOra is a result of a partnership between Malaghan Institute and Bridgewest Ventures NZ, with the support from the Technology Incubator Programme, and a $5 million investment towards CAR T-cell research from MBIE’s Partnerships Scheme.

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