T cells

Faster from the laboratory to the patient: Pilot project boosts “Sleeping Beauty” against cancer

The transposon system by MDC researcher Zsuzsanna Izsvák is part a new gene therapy project, funded with 2.8 million euros by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association and Deutsche Hochschulmedizin.

In 2017, the US American Food and Drug Administration FDA approved a gene therapy for the first time. The therapy with CAR-T cells achieved impressive success in the treatment of cancer. It is also the focus of a research project that the Proof-of-Concept initiative will be supporting with about 2.8 million euros.

Non-viral gene transfer for gene therapy

The chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) developed at the University Hospital of Würzburg detect a certain molecule (ROR1). It is barely present on healthy cells, but which occurs all the more on cancerous cells from leukemia, breast or lung cancer.

Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvak

In the case of the research project now being funded by the PoC initiative, the gene transfer does not take place with viruses, but by means of the Sleeping Beauty transposon system. The gene vector called SB100X has been developed by the lab of MDC researcher Zsuzsanna Izsvák. The funding is to be used to complete pre-clinical studies on the safety and efficacy of the ROR1 CAR-T cells and to achieve the clinical translation into a Phase I study (First-in-Man).

Project participants include the University Hospital of Würzburg, Medical Clinic and Polyclinic II; the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC); and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI.

An initiative to foster translation

Translation of scientific results is full of obstacles. The path from basic research to new drugs, therapies and medicinal products is hard and long-winded. That's why, in the next three years, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association and Deutsche Hochschulmedizin will be providing up to twelve million euros for the Proof-of-Concept initiative. A high-ranking, specialist jury from science, industry and regulatory authorities has now determined the most promising research projects for funding.

Further information