We are all very proud of our star researcher, Jade Foeng, who last night was presented with the inaugural ‘Young Innovator’ award at the 2019 Women in Innovation (Winnovation) awards at the Wine Centre. In a room packed with innovative, forward-thinking and inspiring women and their supporters, Jade accepted the award from the Premier, The Hon. Steven Marshall.

Jade is a PhD student in Professor Shaun McColl’s Chemokine Laboratory at the University of Adelaide. She is a Carina Biotech-funded scientist working on optimising our CAR-T cells to attack a broad range of cancers.

After early data indicated that Carina’s lead CAR-T cell, CNA1003, can kill over 20 cancer cell lines across more than 10 different cancers in vitro, Jade developed animal models of human cancer to test if CNA1003 would work in humans, and was the first to demonstrate that CNA1003 does indeed show anti-cancer activity in animals. Jade’s work on the animal studies was fundamental in gathering the data we needed to seek further funding for research into translating this animal work into humans.

Jade also established how the activity of the CAR-T cells was measured by developing new experimental panels to identify the protein profile of the cells that had been able to move into tumours. These panels have laid the foundation for how we assess the quality of our CAR-T cells across the research groups in Carina in not only the animal experiments but also during CAR-T generation.

Another key focus of Jade’s has been to determine the ideal profile of CAR-T cells necessary to sustain long-term effective protection against tumour growth.

In March this year, Jade spent 8 weeks in the laboratory of Professor Mike Jensen at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Professor Jensen and his group are world leaders in CAR-T research and production and have a collaborative relationship with Carina Biotech’s research group that involves information sharing and training. During Jade’s intensive period there, she focused on learning a new process for the generation of CAR-T cells, which is significantly shorter than the standard process and improves cell quality. It also expands upon Carina’s manufacture 100-fold, and will allow us to conduct large-scale animal experiments in the future. Jade also learnt how to measure the quality of CAR-T cells, and how to freeze/thaw T cells for animal experiments – aspects that are crucial in moving forward into the clinic.

Jade is now working on developing a new protocol to marry the successes of Carina’s current CAR-T manufacture process with the new innovations she learnt in Seattle. This will ultimately allow Carina Biotech to produce high-quality CAR-T cell products that are better equipped to protect against tumour burden across long-term animal experiments and pave the way to our first human clinical trial.

Jade is just one of Carina’s dedicated and hard-working group of scientists developing a broad-spectrum CAR-T cell therapy to treat solid cancers. Working closely with Jade and colleagues in Professor Shaun McColl’s lab are researchers from Professor Simon Barry’s laboratory at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital.

Jade was joined at the awards ceremony by her family and Carina Biotech’s Managing Director Justin Coombs and Marketing Manager Kathy Sharrad.