Penn, Novartis Move Forward with New Cancer Research Center

The University of Pennsylvania  (Penn) has unveiled plans under its alliance with Novartis for the construction of a new 30,000 square-foot facility, the Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics (CACT), on the Penn Medicine campus in Philadelphia. The CACT will be the focal point for research using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology as part of an alliance formed between Penn and Novartis in 2012 to further study and commercialize novel CAR therapies. CAR-based therapies enable a patient's T cells to be reprogrammed outside of the body so when they are re-infused into the patient, the T cells have the ability to “hunt” and destroy the cancer cells

The CACT, which will be funded in part through a $20-million investment from Novartis, will be devoted to the discovery, development, and manufacturing of personalized cellular cancer therapies based on CAR, through a joint research and development program led by scientists and clinicians from Penn and Novartis.

The new facility, slated for completion in 2016, will house technologically advanced rooms where patients' own immune cells will be reprogramed to fight tumors, roughly doubling Penn's capacity to investigate new uses for this cellular therapy technology and treat patients in clinical trials for a broad range of cancers. Functions of the space will include vaccine development, assay development, and correlative studies of blood and other biospecimens to examine how trial participants respond to the therapies they receive.

In July 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to the Penn-developed CTL019, an investigational CAR therapy for the treatment of relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The therapy is part of the Novartis-Penn alliance 

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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