Candel Pairs HSV Vectors with Carl June’s CAR-T Cells in Solid Tumor Pact (Updated)

Candel revealed a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania to assess the combination of Candel’s viral immunotherapy and UPenn’s CAR-T cell treatments in solid tumor models.

University of Pennsylvania_courtesy of aoldman/Getty Images

Candel Therapeutics revealed a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday to assess the combination of Candel’s herpes simplex virus (HSV) vectors and UPenn’s CAR-T cell treatments in solid tumor models.

The alliance will involve cutting-edge cell immunotherapy work done in Penn’s T Cell Engineering Lab, under Carl June’s Center for Cellular Immunotherapies.

Neil Sheppard will be in charge of Penn’s contribution to the partnership. Sheppard heads the T Cell Engineering Lab under the June lab, using genetic engineering to boost the function of CAR-T cells, natural killer cells and other immune cells for use against diseases.

Meanwhile, Candel will contribute its proprietary enLIGHTEN platform, which produces genetically engineered HSV vectors that deliver a gene payload, leading to tumor cell death or strengthening the body’s innate and adaptive anti-cancer immune response.

Candel injects its vectors directly into the tumor or surrounding tissue to avoid systemic side effects.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two parties will jointly investigate the use of these novel engineered viruses to break down barriers to CAR-T treatments and assess the impacts of this combo on solid tumors.

Penn and Candel will keep full rights over their existing respective intellectual properties.

The collaborators will also have the right to take any promising combination from the partnership to clinical trials.

CAN-3110, an HSV-based therapeutic engineered such that a crucial viral replication gene is put under the control of a tumor-specific promoter, is Candel’s lead product candidate.

These modifications allow CAN-3110 to replicate actively and specifically inside tumor cells despite an overall suppressive environment. In animal models, this action results in strong anti-cancer cytolytic activity.

In a statement, Sheppard explained that cancer’s microenvironment is a critical stumbling block for many cell-based cancer therapies. This is due to an overall suppressive milieu that contains elements that impede T-cell movement and function and dampens T-cell expansion, he said.

Paul Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Candel, explained the approach’s key differentiators.

Other approaches have either focused on the delivery of viruses armed with the specific CAR-T cell antigens or combination of CAR-T with systemic viruses aimed to broadly activate the immune cells or to target single elements of the TME,” he told BioSpace. “Our innovative approach enables us to identify and test in the preclinical setting the best combination of genes to arm our vectors.”

He added that Candel “uses a data-driven approach based on human biology to prioritize targets and in silico models to select the best combination of payloads, de-risking the investigational medicine in an iterative process.”

Tak noted that the alliance would specifically look into the tumor microenvironment and determine if the company’s viral immunotherapies could enable Penn’s cell therapies.

For more than 20 years, the June lab has focused on improving and developing new forms of T cell-based therapies and has since discovered many crucial and foundational principles for the technology. The lab was also the first to perform human studies of CAR-T cell technology.

Tristan is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, with more than eight years of experience writing about medicine, biotech and science. He can be reached at, or on LinkedIn.