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Research collaboration to improve immunotherapies

The Berlin biotech Glycotope and the Max Delbrück Center have signed an agreement to explore the potential of combining Glycotope’s tumor-specific antibodies with CAR technology developed by the Max Delbrück Center. Their common goal: advancing immunotherapies against solid tumors.

CARs are engineered synthetic receptors that redirect immune cells, most commonly T-cells, to recognize and eliminate cells expressing a specific target structure on their surface (antigen). These cell-based therapies are rapidly becoming powerful alternatives to conventional treatments for hematologic cancers in particular. However, in some indications, including harder to treat cancers with solid tumors, success has been limited. A major problem facing drug developers is toxicity: They need to select suitable antigens that are only expressed on tumors, and can therefore be targeted safely. In the scope of the newly established collaboration, scientists will combine the highly tumor-specific antibodies developed by Glycotope GmbH with the CAR technology of the Max Delbrück Center to analyze their suitability to treat solid tumors.

“CAR-T cells have dramatically improved the treatment of hematologic malignancies. In stark contrast, CAR-T cells lack efficacy against solid tumors, which by far outnumber incidence and mortality rates of leukemia and lymphoma. Epidemiologically, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers are the most common killers which cannot be successfully targeted using current T cell therapies,” said Dr Armin Rehm, who heads the Translational Tumorimmunology Lab at the Max Delbrück Center.

“Antibodies, however, can recognize tumor-associated aberrant glycosylation, making it an attractive and tumor-specific target structure. This feature, together with a broad tumor-specific expression, paves the way for glycan-redirected CAR-T and NK cells. Thus, we are joining forces for a new generation of CAR-T and NK cells," said Dr Höpken, Head of the Lab Environmental Regulation in Autoimmunity and Cancer at the Max Delbrück Center, and Dr Rehm.

“We are pleased to have gained another renowned collaboration partner and look forward to working with the experienced scientists from Uta's and Armin's groups to evaluate how our targeting approach to carbohydrates or protein/carbohydrate combined glyco-epitopes can help advance cellular therapies for solid tumors,” added Dr Patrik Kehler, CSO at Glycotope.

Combining two technologies

Glycotope’s antibodies target specific tumor-associated carbohydrate structures or protein/carbohydrate combined glyco-epitopes (GlycoTargets). Targeting these specific antigens enables the use in a broad range of indications, the potential to treat patients long-term and it reduces on-target/off-tumor toxicity. All of these aspects are key elements of highly potent therapies. Based on this tumor-specificity, Glycotope’s antibodies are highly suitable for a multi-function platform approach with independent modes of action that could provide tailored therapies to as many patients as possible.

The CAR program at the Max Delbrück Center includes several proprietary antibody binders targeting hematologic tumors. It involves developing a full preclinical validation, an automated manufacturing platform at a clinical scale, and two phase I/II trials that were initiated in collaboration with clinical partners. A comprehensive molecular toolbox of modular CAR components enables rapid integration of new antibody binders. Extensive experience in engineering retroviruses to transfer CARs into the immune cells, and established methodologies to generate T cell and NK effector cells for preclinical testing will facilitate the clinical translation of innovative antibodies in a next-generation CAR platform that targets tumor-associated glycan structures.


Further information



Dr Patrik Kehler
CSO, Glycotope GmbH
+49 (0) 30 9489 2600

Chris Gardner, Chris Welsh
Consillium Strategic Communications
+44 20 3709 5700

Dr Armin Rehm
Head of the Translational Tumorimmunology Lab
Max Delbrück Center
+49 (0) 30 9460 3817

Dr Uta Höpken
Head of the Microenvironmental Regulation in Autoimmunity and Cancer Lab
Max Delbrück Center
+49 (0) 30 9460 3330

Jana Schlütter
Communications Department
Max Delbrück Center
+49 (0) 30 9406 2121 or



Glycotope is a biotechnology company utilizing a proprietary technology platform to develop uniquely tumor-specific monoclonal antibodies. Our antibodies target specific tumor-associated carbohydrate structures or protein/carbohydrate combined glyco-epitopes (GlycoTargets). Glycotope has to date discovered in excess of 200 GlycoTargets with antibodies against several of these targets currently under development.

Based on their superior tumor-specificity, our antibodies are suitable for development in an array of different modes of action including naked antibodies, bispecifics, antibody-drug-conjugates, cellular therapies or fusion-proteins. Visit


Max Delbrück Center


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (Max Delbrück Center) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 70 countries study human biology – investigating the foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium of a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The Max Delbrück Center therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the Max Delbrück Center today employs 1,800 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.