HK inno.N works with GC Cell to develop next-generation cell therapy for solid cancer

By Lim Chang-won Posted : July 4, 2022, 11:14 Updated : July 4, 2022, 11:14

[Courtesy of HK inno.N]

SEOUL --HK inno.N, a pharmaceutical product maker in South Korea, joined hands with GC Cell to develop next-generation immuno-cancer cell therapy that works well for solid cancer by using HLA-G, a nonclassical protein that acts as a major immune checkpoint.

The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) has been shown to be associated with tumor escape in cancers because it causes the immune system to not pay attention to cancer cells. HLA-G has potential utility as a tumor marker due to the large increase in HLA-G in many cancers. HK inno.N and GC Cell would expand the area of developing next-generation cell therapy and strengthening their technological competitiveness.

By grafting fragments of HLA-G targeted antibodies, HK inno.N, formerly known as CJ Healthcare, will develop CAR-T cell therapy, while GC Cell, a cell therapy subsidiary of GC Pharma, would develop chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-natural killer (NK) cell therapies. NK cells are innate immune cells and attack cancer cells.

CARs re-direct NK cells toward tumor cells carrying corresponding antigens, creating major opportunities in the fight against cancer. CARs are receptor proteins that have been engineered to give immune cells the new ability to target a specific protein. 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.

HK inno.N has embarked on an exploratory study to apply fragments of HLA-G target antibodies to cell therapy and obtained positive results in an early CAR-T study evaluating efficacy at the cell level. The company would increase its differentiated immune anti-cancer cell therapy pipeline. 

"With this joint R&D contract with GC Cell, we hope that we will quickly secure a cell therapy pipeline and further develop research capabilities," HK inno.N's bio research center head Won Sung-yong said in a statement on July 4. 

GC Cell would expand its solid cancer pipeline area by combining NK cell therapy technology and HLA-G target antibodies and sequentially check the possibility and efficacy of CAR-NK applications. "We look forward to the development of treatments with high efficacy and safety in solid cancer, an unexplored field of cell therapy, through open innovation," said GC Cell's cell therapy research center head Min Bo-kyung.

Immune cells obtained from the patient's blood are genetically manipulated, cultured, and put back into the patient's body. CAR-T cell therapy uses T cells engineered with CARs. T cells are administered back to the patient after undergoing a mass culture process. Because the therapy activates the patient's immune system, it causes fewer side effects.

With the breakthrough success of CAR-T cell therapy for blood cancers, research is actively underway to expand it to intractable solid cancers. In January 2021, GC Cell secured a deal with Merck, an American pharmaceutical company, to develop novel CAR-NK cell therapies targeting solid tumor-associated antigens.

Artiva Biotherapeutics, a San Diego-based oncology company founded by Pharma,, has received GC's technology related to primary allogeneic NK cell therapies for patients with hematologic cancers or solid tumors. Artiva's targeted NK cell therapies leverage the innate anti-tumor biology and safety features of NK cells. 
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