Perspectives

March 9, 2021

Innovating for the Future

Kaushik Sarkar

I was always fascinated by science and it was an easy choice for me going into high school especially growing up in India, where there is a huge push towards science and technology. Following my Bachelors in Biochemistry from India, I moved to the UK to pursue my M.Sc. in Applied Biomolecular technology. During this time, my love and passion for science was further consolidated.

After spending a few years working in antibody therapeutics R&D and completing a Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, I decided on a career track change. I wanted to work within the cell therapy area, because these therapies aim to tackle some of the most difficult-to-treat diseases and help patients live a more normal live.

We all probably know someone who has been afflicted by some form of cancer and I understand how devastating it can be, both physically and emotionally. I was quite young when one my uncles lost his battle with prostate cancer. I still remember the pain and agony he used to be in, and the frustration I had of not being able to help in any way. Even though some cancer treatments have come a long way, and are better, more effective treatments can’t come fast enough.

I joined Adaptimmune in 2019 as a Senior Scientist within the Analytical development team, which is part of the larger CMC organization. Adaptimmune is at the forefront of cell therapy research and development. Adaptimmune’s mission is to “transform the lives of people with cancer by designing and delivering cell therapies.” We aim to do this using our autologous SPEAR (Specific Peptide Enhanced Affinity Receptor) Tcell platform along with other cell therapy modalities and next-generation approaches in our preclinical pipeline.

Interestingly, my role within analytical development (AD) is mostly about “application” as AD bridges research and clinical sciences. On a day-to-day basis, I’m responsible for developing and running assays used to characterize our cell therapy products and help us understand and optimize them. For instance, I’m currently optimizing the ‘release panel’ for one of clinical candidates.

The release panel is used for releasing T-cell batches for infusion into patients and assures that some of the key characteristics of the T cell product, set by the regulatory authorities, are met. Similarly, understanding the quality and titre of our Lentiviral products (generated both in-house and at CMOs) is equally important in generating final cell therapy products. As part of my role within AD, I’m involved in titre determination of the lentiviral products and ensuring they meet the set criteria.

Cell therapy products are generated using very sophisticated processes and constant innovation and improvement of the processes are indispensable. Recently, I was able to contribute to such a process optimization exercise and ensured that the final T-cell products were equally, if not more effective, compared to the previous process. Of course, none of the work mentioned above is done in isolation and collaboration is key for any successful project.

For some of our autologous projects, I have worked closely with colleagues in the US (Navy Yard, Philadelphia), developing assays used for releasing therapies for patients currently in our clinical trials. I also work very closely with Allogeneic research for some of our off-the-shelf product development, which requires a lot of innovative thinking and scouting for new assays and techniques. My role requires me to adapt and innovate as the cell therapy knowledge base is constantly evolving. It’s imperative that we keep pace with it. I feel that Adaptimmune offers me a great platform to apply my scientific skills and nurture my passion for science – while being able to pursue our shared mission of helping people with cancer.

I am proud to play a part in advancing our research and development. I feel quite privileged to be a part of this company. If my small contribution to Adaptimmune’s journey can improve at least one patient’s life, I would consider that to be a great personal achievement, but I sincerely hope that we can touch and improve the lives of many patients.