The original impetus…

Carina Biotech was founded on the notion that a previously described marker discovered on approximately 95% of diagnosed cancers could be used to create a broad-spectrum chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) against solid cancers. This marker is a non-functioning version of the extensively studied P2X7 receptor on the surface of some normal cells. The non-functioning version (nfP2X7) has been found on many cancer cells but not on normal, healthy cells – rendering it a perfect target for immune therapy [to read more go to our Science page]. Indeed, therapies have been developed targeting nfP2X7 including a monoclonal antibody, an immunohistochemistry diagnostic tool, a therapeutic vaccine and a topical antibody formulation for the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers.

In 2015 when Carina’s now managing director Dr Justin Coombs was hearing of the impressive success of CAR-T therapies against blood cancers in the United States, he wondered if it would be possible to create a CAR-T cell targeted to nfP2X7. He approached T cell biologist Professor Simon Barry and asked him to make this CAR-T cell. Over two years, Professor Barry and his research team worked on this formidable task, eventually producing Carina’s first lead technology – CNA1003, a CAR-T cell that can kill multiple cancer lines in vitro. They were assisted greatly by Professor Mike Jensen and his laboratory at the Seattle Research Institute.

We are currently undergoing preclinical testing of CNA1003 in small animal trials in the laboratory of Professor Shaun McColl. We are also in the early stages of investigating a second target. Alongside this, our researchers in the labs of Dr Anton Blencowe are working on a gel formulation that will make for the effective and targeted delivery of CAR-T cells directly to solid tumours.