In September 2014, ImmunoCellular entered into a licensing agreement with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for exclusive rights to novel technology for the development of stem cell immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. The technology originated from the labs of David Baltimore, PhD, Nobel Laureate and President Emeritus at Caltech, and utilizes the patient’s own hematopoietic stem cells to create antigen-specific killer T cells to treat cancer. ImmunoCellular plans to utilize this technology to expand and complement its dendritic cell-based cancer immunotherapy platform, with the goal of developing new immunotherapies that kill cancer cells in a highly directed and specific manner and that can function as monotherapies or in combination therapy approaches.
Caltech’s technology potentially addresses the challenge, and limitation, that TCR (T cell receptor) technologies have faced of generating a limited immune response and having an unknown persistence in the patient’s body. ImmunoCellular believes that by inserting DNA that encodes T cell receptors into stem cells rather than into T cells, the immune response can be transformed into a durable and more potent response that could effectively treat previously resilient solid cancers. This observation has been verified in animal models by investigators at Caltech and the National Cancer Institute.
The first step in the research program for this Stem-to-T-Cell technology is to identify the genetic sequence of a TCR which will become the basis for the product development program. In September 2015, ImmunoCellular entered into a sponsored research agreement with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center with the goal of identifying a TCR sequence. In addition, in 2015 the Company acquired an option from Stanford University to evaluate certain technology related to the identification of TCRs that could prove useful in supporting the Stem-to-T-Cell research efforts.