CellenGene, a biotechnology company specializing in cell gene therapy (CEO: Ahn Jae-hyun), has been selected for the ‘New Drug Ecosystem R&D Establishment Project’ under the 2023 National New Drug Development Project by the Korea Drug Development Fund (KDDF).
The National New Drug Development Project is a cross-ministerial R&D initiative, designed to augment the global competitiveness of the domestic pharmaceutical and bioindustry and advance public health. As a selected participant, CellenGene is set to receive 900 million won in R&D funding over the next two years. These funds will be used to identify a final candidate substance for CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells) therapy, specifically targeting ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer, often diagnosed in advanced stages with over 70% of cases identified in stages 3 or 4, presents a significant challenge to the medical community. Post-surgery, platinum-based chemotherapy is typically used as a standard treatment. Although other therapies, such as angiogenesis inhibitors and PARP inhibitors, have been developed, their contribution to prolonging patient lifespan remains insignificant. Nearly 85% of ovarian cancer patients experience relapse, and treatment options are scarce for those resistant to conventional therapies post-relapse. Consequently, ovarian cancer represents a significant unmet medical need demanding improved treatment alternatives.
A representative from CellenGene highlighted that, despite being a revolutionary next-gen immunotherapy for cancer, CAR-T has been confined primarily to treating blood cancers, with no successful applications to solid tumors. “Through this project selection, we aim to identify the optimal mesothelin monoclonal antibody for ovarian cancer and assess the anti-cancer efficacy of mesothelin CAR-T therapy. Our goal is to advance the development of CAR-T therapy for domestic patients with recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer, offering them new potential treatment possibilities,” said the representative.
Located in Pangyo Techno Valley, a significant Bio R&D hub, CellenGene concentrates on developing cell gene therapy for refractory diseases. The company has developed CAR-T technology utilizing mini-antibodies targeting mesothelin and currently holds two domestic patents, in addition to four international patents in Australia, China, Japan, and Canada. In tandem, they are improving the technological competitiveness of mesothelin mini-antibodies through in silico-based gene sequence optimization using artificial intelligence.
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