News of Note—Cancer consortium sets out to shorten R&D; Rejuvenating damaged hearts; A new cancer-killing cell

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GlaxoSmithKline has joined a new research consortium that wants to shorten the early cancer discovery process by several years.

GSK teams with national labs, academia to slash cancer research timeline

GlaxoSmithKline has joined a new private-public consortium that wants to transform cancer drug development by cutting the preclinical research timeline from an estimated six years to 12 months. The group, called Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM), also includes the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the National Cancer Institute’s Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research and the University of California at San Francisco. ATOM will take GSK’s data from more than 2 million compounds and 500 drugs that failed in trials and combine it with publicly available information, with the ultimate goal of developing a new drug-discovery platform that uses artificial intelligence and other technologies to speed up development. (Release)

Using RNA sequencing to rejuvenate damaged heart tissue

Scientists at the University of North Carolina have uncovered the steps by which damaged heart tissue cells, or fibroblasts, change into healthy heart cells, cardiomyocytes. They used RNA sequencing to identify the key steps cells take to transform into one of the two cell types. They believe their insights could be used for direct cardiac reprogramming of damaged heart cells into healthy tissue. Their research was published in the journal Nature. (Release)

Beyond CAR-T: engineered T-cell receptors could attack relapsed leukemia

Newly FDA-approved CAR-T therapies from Novartis and Kite are generating excitement for their potential to cure some patients with leukemia or lymphoma. Now scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are developing a new type of engineered immune cell: T-cell receptors (TCRs) that may be useful in fighting relapsed leukemia. The cells are engineered to target “minor H antigen,” which is found on the surface of leukemia cells. In the journal Blood, they described how they can extract the receptor from patients’ blood then insert them into donated T cells, creating “supercharged” cells trained to seek out and destroy cancer cells that express minor H antigen. (Release)