China biotech CARsgen inks deal with Shanghai Cancer Institute on candidate focus

China clinical stage biotech CARsgen signed a 5-year partnership agreement with the Shanghai Cancer Institute to develop CARsgen's chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) immunotherapeutics.

The pact, according to a news release, includes efforts to identify and develop novel CAR-T candidates and next generation technologies with CARsgen getting rights to any drugs.

In March, the Shanghai-based firm started a Phase I clinical study of its glypican 3 (GPC3) CAR-T therapy in patients with refractory hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the company said in the press release.

"To date, 6 patients with relapsed and/or refractory HCC have been enrolled and treated with escalating doses of GPC3-CAR-T infusions (up to ~1.1x109 cells)," the release said in an update on the trial.

"Two of the 6 patients demonstrated more than a 90% decline in levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), a liver biomarker indicating the activity of liver cancer. Glypican 3 is expressed in a variety of tumors, with a high frequency in HCC. In in vivo and in vitro preclinical studies, GPC3-CAR-T effectively killed GPC3 positive HCC cells."

Clinical work will be carried out with Renji Hospital in Shanghai.

In December last year, CARsgen completed an undisclosed A round to finance its work in CAR-T immunotherapies for a variety of cancers. Teaming up with the Shanghai Cancer Institute and Shanghai Renji Hospital, the company plans to spend its funding on clinical trials for its lead therapy, targeting hepatocellular carcinoma.

The company said in its release that it "has a broad range of CAR-T candidates for lung, brain and stomach cancers as well as blood cancers. CARsgen and Renji Hospital began enrolling up to 10 patients in a Phase 1 clinical study of an anti-EGFR CAR-T therapy designed to treat glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or brain cancer)."

Other China-focused companies such as Nasdaq-listed biotech Cellular Biomedicine Group ($CBMG) are working on Phase I clinical efforts in CAR-T immuno-oncology clinical development programs, a complex field that in many respects requires substantial investment in basic research for proof, but still has caught attention as a cutting-edge look at potential oncology therapies.

- here's the release