Universal Cells, an Astellas Company

Working with Universal Cells to Develop “off-the shelf” T-cells – Adaptimmune’s Allogeneic Platform

Adaptimmune has been collaborating with Universal Cells (an Astellas Company) since 2015 on development of gene-edited iPSC cell lines, for which Adaptimmune has rights to develop and commercialize resulting T-cell therapy products. This uses Adaptimmune’s proprietary process for generating T-cells from stem cells without the use of feeder cell lines. 

In January 2020, Adaptimmune signed a further co-development and co-commercialization agreement with Astellas, through Universal Cells, to bring up to three new stem-cell derived allogeneic T-cell therapies to people with cancer. You can read more about this agreement here.

The scientists at Adaptimmune and Universal Cells have collaborated to edit out elements from HiPSCs that could potentially be recognized by the immune system, for the purpose of creating universally accepted donor T-cells – or an “off-the-shelf” allogeneic product. In parallel, Adaptimmune scientists have developed methods that allow stem cells to become T-cells in a process that is explained here.

The combination of these two developments results in the ability to create T-cells designed to evade patients’ immune systems. These allogeneic products are expected to enable manufacture of batches of identical T-cells to treat large numbers of patients. The “off-the-shelf” nature of the product will provide benefit to patients by decreasing the time spent awaiting therapy and removing the need for leukapheresis.

Universal Cells’ proprietary gene editing techniques allow for efficient and accurate editing of genes without off-target effects. The process starts with the careful selection of a stem cell line suitable for eventual dosing to patients.  Engineering of the stem cell line with rAAV vectors is an iterative process that incorporates single-cell cloning, which enables detailed genetic analysis after each editing step, allowing confirmation that each clone contains the correct edit.