Mustang picks up CD20 CAR-T from Fred Hutch

Mustang Bio has picked up the rights to a CD20-directed CAR-T therapy from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The agreement gives the Fortress Biotech offshoot a phase 1/2-ready cell therapy to advance alongside its existing clutch of CAR-Ts.

Fred Hutch’s Mazyar Shadman, M.D. is set to start testing the CD20 CAR-T in humans later this year, partly using cash from Mustang. That will mark the start of the validation of work the lab of Fred Hutch’s Oliver Press, M.D., Ph.D., and Brian Till, M.D. did to get the CD20 program up and running. 

Preclinical efficacy data suggest the CAR-T can hold its own against the first crop of CD19-directed therapies from Novartis and Kite Pharma. As importantly, the pursuit of a different target could expand the use of the CAR-T approach to patients whose tumors don’t express CD19, either from the get go or following treatment with a first-generation cell therapy. 

Another option is to give the CD19 and CD20-directed CAR-Ts in combination. This idea is being tested by Shanghai Longyao Biotechnology, one of teams to get a CD20 cell therapy into the clinic before Mustang and Fred Hutch. 

That combination study is one of 13 CD20 CAR-T trials listed on All bar one of the studies are sponsored by Chinese groups. The exception is the 30-patient B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma trial being planned by Fred Hutch’s Shadman. 

New York, NY-based Mustang is now looking to capitalize on its position in the leading pack of CD20 CAR-T therapies by speeding through the clinic. The CD20 program will advance in parallel to a still-growing clutch of other CAR-Ts.

“With the execution of this agreement, Mustang is now evaluating six novel CAR-Ts in clinical and preclinical trials, and we remain focused on expanding our pipeline of compelling CAR-T therapies,” Mustang CEO Manuel Litchman, M.D. said in a statement. 

Mustang has put together the pipeline through agreements with medical centers, starting with the deal with City of Hope in Duarte, CA that created the biotech in the first place. The biotech added three programs to its pipeline through a follow-up deal with City of Hope in June, giving it plenty of avenues of research on which to spend its February $94.5 million private placement.