• Otávio Santiago

Late to the CAR-T game, AstraZeneca quietly works on its own off-the-shelf therapies

While AstraZeneca may be a major player in the oncology space, the company has been noticeably absent as the first wave of CAR-T therapies hit the market over the past five years. But movement is happening behind the scenes.

It turns out the U.K.-headquartered drugmaker has been quietly stockpiling the necessary knowledge and technology to make an AstraZeneca CAR-T a reality one day, according to Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit. In fact, a key part of the drugmaker’s longer-term cancer strategy is “building our own cell therapy expertise.”

“We've been working pretty diligently to build the capability set and start to get real progress made there,” he says. “I'm pleased with what I see.”

While it may seem late in the day to go head-to-head with now established CAR-T players like Novartis’ Kymriah and Kite Pharma’s Yescarta, AstraZeneca already has its eyes on the next generation of these cell therapies.

All approved CAR-Ts to date are so-called autologous treatments, meaning they are based on donations of a patient’s own cells. An up-and-coming class of CAR-Ts in various stages of clinical testing by different pharma companies are known as allogeneic, or "off-the-shelf," therapies, because they use engineered cells collected from a third party.

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