We were excited and honoured to be invited to pitch our company and our case at yesterday’s Investor Showcase pitching event held at the Adelaide Town Hall, as part of the SouthStart Conference 2018.

The event, and SouthStart, is supported by the newly formed Office of the South Australian Chief Entrepreneur, the Moonshine Laboratory and the SA Government.

Our MD, Dr Justin Coombs made our 8-minute pitch to a room full of potential investors, other start-up companies and members of the SA start-up/technology commercialisation community. New Chief Entrepreneur, Jim Whalley, presented Justin with our award at the end of a long but enjoyable day of pitching by 22 companies.

Justin started his presentation by showing a picture of a sick Emily Whitehead, who was just 6 when her parents were told by doctors that she needed to enter palliative care. Standard treatments, including salvage treatments, were not working to save her from the ravages of the acute lymphoblastic leukaemia she had been battling for 16 months. Instead, her parents enrolled her in a clinical trial of newly emerging immunotherapy called chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy. Emily became the first paediatric patient in the world to receive it.

The next slide in the presentation showed a healthy, happy and cancer-free Emily six years later (present day).

Justin explained that he started Carina by asking the question, “Could we make a CAR-T cell that would attack solid cancers?” (CAR-T therapy has shown remarkably efficacy against blood cancers, like Emily’s, but not against solid cancers.) The next, even more ambitious, question Justin asked was, “Could we make a CAR-T cell that attacks many solid cancers?”

Luckily, the answer to both those questions is YES, thanks to the work of our lead researcher Professor Simon Barry and colleagues at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital.

Justin explained to the audience that we have shown that our CAR-T cell can kill a range of solid cancers in vitro and we are also seeing encouraging results in a number of cancers in small animal trials. Our research team now also boasts Professor Shaun McColl from the University of Adelaide, Dr Anton Blencowe from UniSA, Associate Professor Claudine Bonder from the Centre for Cancer Biology/UniSA and Professor Mike Jensen from Seattle Children’s Hospital in the United States.

We want to continue to advance our lead CAR-T cell through the preclinical stages to reach a first-in-human clinical trial by 2020.

As we say, watch this space!