Thermogenesis cell preservation tech to drive CAR-T cancer trial eligibility

Rebranded Thermogenesis used its quarterly call to outline plan to target unmet tech and manufacturing needs in the CAR-T sector.

The firm – known until November 1 as Cesca Therapeutics – will pitch its cell processing tools and its new services joint venture – Immunecyte – as a way to help reduce CAR-T manufacturing, storage and distribution costs.

CEO Chris Xu told analysts on Thermogenesis’ third quarter call that Immunecyte – formed with Healthbanks Biotech last month – would be key to the strategy.

Image: iStock/Design Cells

He explained that cancer patients who are otherwise eligible for CAR-T trials are often unable to take part because they do not have enough healthy immune cells to manufacture the therapy being tested.

Immunecyte aims to address this by letting people preserve younger, healthier and uncontaminated cells as a future resource for the production of cellular immunotherapy.

“The concept is not new, but the critical unmet need is very new,” Xu said, explaining that Thermogenesis’ CAR-TXpress platform will be core to Immunecyte’s competitive strategy.

Xu said it can take up to four hours to process a 200 ml sample for cell banking using traditional methods. Such processes are labour intensive and require dedicated GMP grade units.

XU contrasted this with ImmuneCyte’s offering, explaining the “CAR-TXpress platform can increase cell processing efficiency by up to 16-fold as compared to traditional methods, Immunecyte will be able to offer banking at a very reasonable cost.”

Renaming

The call also touched on Thermogenesis’ rebranding and strategy change.

The firm was founded as a medical device firm in the 80s. In the 90s, it developed automated cell separation and cryostorage tech for the stem cell and cord blood industry.

In 2014, it rebranded as Cesca Therapeutics with the aim of developing regenerative medicines.

The next few years saw Cesca experience “severe financial difficulties” according to Xu, who got involved in 2016 when he invested $50 million and became the firm’s biggest shareholder.

Under Xu’s leadership Cesca bought device firm SynGen in 2017 – whose BACS cell counting tech “expanded our footprint into the emerging CAR T immunotherapy field.” A year later it launched the CAR-TXPress platform.

Last month when Immunecyte was formed Cesca said it would “contribute its clinical development assets to the joint venture, as the company has decided to discontinue these activities in order to focus exclusively on the device business.”

Financials

Thermogenesis net revenue for the three months ended September 30, 2019 were $4.1 million (€3.7 million), up from $3.1 million in the comparable period last year. The firm said the increase was powered by AXP and CAR-TXpress sales.

It said, “The AXP increase was driven by approximately 270 more cases sold to domestic end users in the current quarter.  CAR-TXpress sales increased primarily due to new customers that adopted the system.”

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