The past few months have seen the first approvals at the FDA for CAR-T cancer therapies. But trials have been going on for years. And not just by big pharma.
Today’s guest, Dr. Michael Jensen, is a researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and started his first CAR-T cell trial back in 2002.
“It’s been a long road to get to the point where we understand enough about the science and physiology of this technology to make it work int he clinic," he tells us in today's interview.
Seattle Children’s has set out a tremendously bold vision: think hybrid academic center and biotech company. They are currently building a $350 million, half a million square foot research tower along with a 30,000 square foot GMP manufacturing facility--all under the non-profit umbrella. This is an upgrade on the current GMP facility and will be one of the biggest such facilities of its kind in academia.
Michael says that the center is out ahead of big pharma with CAR-T therapies because they are not going for big drug approvals, but rather focused on early proof of concept work.
“Our role is to innovate in early phase studies with the hope that positive data will result in a Novartis or Gilead or Juno or Bluebird coming in and taking it across the finish line.”
What the non-profit center is able to do that big pharma never will be able to, therefore, is to go after all cancers and pediatric diseases, no matter how rare.
We begin the interview with a rundown on the ongoing CAR-T trials at Seattle Children's and their plans to translate success in blood cancers to solid tumor cancers.