Straddling the science of Dario Campana’s famous laboratory in Singapore, West Coast biotechnology Nkarta has been a prominent entry in the race for the industry’s first natural killer cell therapy. Biotech, a thousand miles from potential approval, redoubles its ambition and sets up a manufacturing plant of the future well in advance.
Nkarta has signed a lease for an 88,000 square foot facility in southern San Francisco that will serve as the new biotech headquarters as well as the headquarters of its commercial manufacturing operations, the company said on Wednesday.
Nkarta, which develops ready-to-use NK cell-based immunotherapies for cancer, is currently powering a small 2,700-square-foot clinical manufacturing facility that was completed earlier this year at its existing site in South San Francisco. But as biotechnology initiates a Phase I clinical trial for NK cell candidate NKX101, which targets NKG2d ligands on tumor cells, and approaches the clinic with another, Nkarta realized that its modest environment did not match its ambitions as a multidrug pharmaceutical company.
Now the new biotech site, due to go live in late 2023, will be the incubator of Nkarta’s goal of bringing a drug list to the finish line in what would be a significant achievement given that there are no approved NK cell therapies.
All of Nkarta’s candidates, which are designed to express a chimeric antigenic receptor (CAR) and membrane-bound IL-15 cytokine to stimulate NK cell growth and activity, use cells derived from healthy donors and can potentially be produced at a fraction of the cost on a commercial scale of other cell therapies, the company said. Nkarta attributed the cost difference to its proprietary manufacturing platform, which can theoretically produce hundreds of individual doses from a single cycle, as well as optimized freezer storage for standard use.
“Our goal is to ensure that the cost-effective, commercial-scale production of cell therapies can be widely and rapidly available to cancer patients who need them, and we hope this new facility will allow us to do just that,” said said Paul, CEO. Hastings said in a statement.
In addition to NKX101, which is currently in a Phase I AML trial, Nkarta is laying the groundwork for NKX019, which targets CD19, to arrive in clinics later this year. Meanwhile, the company believes its new facility could provide enough leeway to move the pipeline forward into exciting new areas, particularly a CRISPR / Cas9 application for its NK cell technology, the company said in a statement. .
The path has already been mapped out after Nkarta signed an undisclosed upfront discovery agreement in May to partner with CRISPR Therapeutics, biotechnology using technology developed in part by Emmanuelle Charpentier, the specialist in gene editing. The collaboration will aim to co-develop and commercialize two CAR-NK therapies, in addition to an NK + T program. The duo will share all R&D costs – and all global benefits – 50/50, Hastings previously said News from terminals.
There is some overlap in terms of what the two biotechs are trying to do. In October, CRISPR announced that two of four patients who received a specific dose of its CAR-T candidate for CD19 + B cell malignancies achieved complete responses (the results, however, were marred by the death of a patient in a higher dose cohort).
“While we are optimistic about our allogeneic CAR-T approach, we believe that NK cells may be an important component of future oncology therapies,” Samarth Kulkarni, CEO of CRISPR, said in an email.