GC Labcell exports original technology for U.S. deal to develop cell therapies

By Lim Chang-won Posted : January 29, 2021, 10:44 Updated : January 29, 2021, 11:31

[Courtesy of GC Labcell]

SEOUL -- GC Labcell, a manufacturer of cell therapy products in South Korea, will export its original platform technology and participates in joint research with its U.S. partner under a deal with Merck, an American pharmaceutical company, to develop novel chimeric antigen receptor-natural killer cell therapies targeting solid tumor-associated antigens.

GC Labcell said in a regulatory filing on January 29 that Artiva Biotherapeutics, a San Diego-based oncology company founded by South Korea's GC pharmaceutical group, has secured a deal with Merck, known as MSD.

In addition to royalties, GC Labcell said it would receive $966.7 million, including $15 million in upfront payment and $966.75 million in milestone payments that are paid when each milestone is achieved in clinical trials and commercialization. Artiva has received GC's technology related to primary allogeneic natural killer (NK) cell therapies for patients with hematologic cancers or solid tumors.

NK cells are innate immune cells and attack cancer cells. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) re-direct NK cells toward tumor cells carrying corresponding antigens, creating major opportunities in the fight against cancer. CAR NK cells have the potential for use as universal CAR cells without the need for human leukocyte antigen matching or prior exposure to tumor-associated antigens.

In a statement published on its website, Artiva said it has secured an exclusive worldwide collaboration and license agreement that initially includes two new CAR-NK programs with an option for a third. Merck is responsible for clinical and commercial development.

Artiva said its targeted NK cell therapies leverage the innate anti-tumor biology and safety features of NK cells. The therapies are optimized for enhanced efficacy through CARs, therapeutic antibody combination therapy, and genetic engineering.
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