From The Editor | October 19, 2020

ARM's Meeting on the Mesa 2020 — Disruptive Technologies that Will Change Cell Therapy


By Erin Harris, Editor-In-Chief, Cell & Gene
Follow Me On Twitter @ErinHarris_1

Future Technology

ARM’s Meeting on the Mesa 2020 was held virtually October 12-15th, and the event delivered engaging panel presentations, partnering sessions, an exhibit hall, etc. as easily as it did for last year’s in-person event in Carlsbad, CA. I attended last year’s Meeting on the Mesa, where I covered topics such as pricing reimbursement, and even though I was unable to talk to and meet industry luminaries in person this year, Meeting on the Mesa was chock full of actionable information and opportunities for one-to-one meetings and networking opportunities.

Regarding panel presentations, I found the panel titled, Disruptive Technologies that Will Change the Cell Therapy Landscape, to be very informative. Here’s why. Dan Shoemaker, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Fate Therapeutics; Helen Tayton-Martin, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer at Adaptimmune; James Trager, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Nkarta Therapeutics; and Stefan Wildt, Ph.D., Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Translational Engine, Cell Therapies at Takeda covered timely topics including whether allogeneic and autologous cell therapies can be produced at the same cost; thoughts on auto and allo for degenerative diseases and more. Here are some of the questions and responses from the panel discussion.

Would you consider technology used including utilizing close system early in the technology considered disruptive to change the landscape of cell therapy?

Closed systems potentially at the treatment center/closer to the patient could be very disruptive for the broader availability. But right now every company's process is different and highly controlled so it’s difficult to envisage localized delivery. Within centralized manufacturing sites closed systems will certainly reduce costs, likely decrease timing of overall manufacture - all of which will make these therapies more cost-effective for patients in the future.

How about disruptive advances for re-dosing?

Re-dosing will be critical to driving deep durable responses. What disruptive technology do you think that can improve the product robustness, and reduce variability?

What tools are needed most to drive this in reality? The variability we see for autologous products, is one of the reasons that drives the field towards allogeneic therapies. On the autologous side, one path forward is a deep understanding of the relevant “features” of the product to reliably and reproducibly ensure good outcome.

What are your thoughts on autologous vs allogeneic cell therapies for degenerative diseases? What would be best for the patients?

The answer to this question will likely vary with indication; there will be instances in which autologous cells, with their higher potential for very long-term engraftment, may make the most sense. In other cases, being able to deliver multiple doses with potentially a greater degree of engineering will likely be the better choice. The biology is ultimately going to guide therapeutic design.

If autologous cell therapies could be produced with the same cost as allogeneic cell therapies, do you think that would change the current industry trajectory towards allogeneic cell therapies?

Allogeneic vs. autologous is an enduring and complex debate that will not be decided based on cost only. The industry will see successful products of both types moving forward.