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A new immunotherapy technology developed at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been licensed to New York-based Mustang Bio, a subsidiary of Fortress Biotech.

The technology is the basis for a new kind of CAR T immunotherapy treatment, which genetically engineers a patient’s immune cells to fight cancer. Similar treatments have been under development at biotech companies across the country for several years, including Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics.

Dr. Brian Till, one of the researchers who developed the new immunotherapy technology. (Fred Hutch Photo)

The new tech was developed by Fred Hutch researchers Dr. Oliver Press and Dr. Brian Till and is being studied as a treatment for patients with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. A clinical trial studying the drug is expected to begin at Fred Hutch’s Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic in Seattle in the next few months, with backing from Mustang.

“We look forward to working with the team at Fred Hutch to rapidly advance the promising CD20 Technology to patients in need,” Mustang CEO Dr. Manuel Litchman said in a news release. “With the execution of this agreement, Mustang is now evaluating six novel CAR Ts in clinical and pre-clinical trials, and we remain focused on expanding our pipeline of compelling CAR T therapies.”

The new approach targets the CD20 protein, which lymphoma cells produce. The tech genetically engineers a patient’s T cells, the cells that hunt down viruses and bacteria, so they go after CD20 and kill cancer cells in a patient’s bloodstream.

“After developing the CD20 CAR for several years in the laboratory and seeing the modified T cells successfully treat tumors in mice, it is very exciting to be able to bring this promising treatment to patients with relapsed lymphomas,” Till said in the press release.

Correction: This post was updated to clarify the kind of trial the treatment will be studied in. It is a phase 1/2 clinical trial, not a pre-clinical trial.

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