Tmunity expands Penn pact, picking up another CAR-T program, rights to manufacturing tech

Tmunity Therapeutics was born out of an extensive collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania that netted it the technology, know-how and programs it needed to go after better cell therapies for cancer. Now, the biotech is bolstering that pact, picking up a new CAR-T program and the rights to certain technologies.

Under the original partnership, Tmunity had already licensed four CAR-T programs for solid tumors from the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies (CCI) at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Now, it is getting “further access and rights” to certain platform and manufacturing technologies, and it is licensing a CAR-T program that targets mesothelin, according to a statement.

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Tmunity also committed to funding more T-cell engineering research programs at Penn and secured exclusive rights to assets and technologies that emerge from those projects, the company said in the statement.

“This partnership with Dr. June and the Penn CCI team further expands our access and certain rights to discoveries, clinical programs, cell engineering, and manufacturing at the cutting edge of T cell engineering, including platform technologies in the field, such as safety switches, signaling domains, payload delivery, and novel approaches for cell persistence and durability,” said Tmunity President and CEO Usman "Oz" Azam, M.D., in the statement.

The news comes three years after Tmunity debuted with $100 million in series A funding. Its co-founders include a who’s who of cell therapy research—including Carl June, M.D.; Bruce Levine, Ph.D.; Yangbing Zhao, M.D., Ph.D.; Anne Chew, Ph.D.; and Jim Riley, Ph.D.—and carried out its early phase 1 work and some manufacturing at Penn’s facilities.

The company has since topped up its coffers, adding $35 million to that series A in April 2018 and raising a $75 million series B in October 2019. Along the way, it has built its own GMP facility outside of the university that it expected to be ready for phase 2 studies in 2021, Azam said in a previous interview.

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Tmunity has also struck deals with other partners. In spring of 2019, it licensed a T-cell receptor treatment from the University of California, San Francisco for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a rare and aggressive brain cancer that predominantly affects children. Five months later, it teamed up with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on a CAR-T treatment for neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that affects the developing nervous system.