Allogene Therapeutics Announces the Formation of its Scientific Advisory Board
Allogene Therapeutics, based in South San Francisco, announced the implementation of its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is made up of five leaders in oncology, immunology, drug discovery and development, and will consult on strategic and scientific matters.
Members of the board include:
Tom Schumacher, who will chair the SAB. He is a senior member at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and professor of Immunotechnology at Leiden University Medical Center. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT.
Donald Kohn is a professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) and Pediatrics, and director of the UCLA Human Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program. Kohn is also a member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and the Johnsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Crystal Mackall is an Endowed Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Mackall is also the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford, founding director of the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy and associate director of the Stanford Cancer Institute. Before that, most of her career was spent at the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute, where she was head of the Immunology Section and chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch.
Matthew Porteus is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Divisions of Hematology/Oncology and Human Gene Therapy at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Owen Witte is a University Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at UCLA. He holds the President’s Chair in Developmental Immunology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
“Allogene is at the forefront of allogeneic cell therapy, and I’m excited to support its mission to advance the development of this innovative approach to cancer treatment,” Schumacher said in a statement. “Together with this tremendously accomplished group of scientific leaders, we look forward to lending our collective expertise to what could be the next most important breakthrough in the field.”
The company’s focus is on allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapies. Typical CAR-T—at this time only two approved products, Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead Sciences’ Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel)—involve taking blood from a cancer patient, shipping it to a laboratory, where it is genetically engineered to respond specifically to that patient’s cancer, returned to the physician, who infuses the CAR-T cells back into the patient. The concept of an allogeneic CAR-T program is that they aren’t engineered specifically for each patient, but are “off-the-shelf,” which would presumably save both time and money. However, one issue with this to date has to do with immune responses on the part of patients, whose immune systems recognize these as invaders, as opposed to being a part of their own immune system.
In April, Allogene and Pfizer announced an asset contribution agreement for Pfizer’s portfolio related to allogeneic CAR-T therapy. Pfizer has a 25 percent stake in Allogene. Pfizer has other stakes in CAR-T companies, including an eight percent ownership stake in Cellectis via a 2014 equity deal.
Allogene is a Two River portfolio company. It was founded with a $300 million Series A financing by a consortium that included TPG, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, and Pfizer, as well as others.
“The allogeneic CAR-T platform represents a potentially transformative approach to treating cancer, and we are very excited about what the future may hold for this area of research,” said Robert Abraham, Pfizer’s senior vice president and group head, Oncology Research & Development, in a statement at the time. “We believe that under the strong scientific, clinical development and regulatory expertise of Allogene’s leadership team, the portfolio of CAR-T assets contributed by Pfizer will be well-positioned to rapidly advance into potential innovative new therapies, and ultimately to reach patients in need more quickly.”