Cutting edge cancer therapy developed in India

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 08, 2021

The National Biopharma Mission-BIRAC has approved ₹19.15 cr for conducting a first-in-human phase-1/2 clinical trial of the CAR-T cells

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) in Mumbai have joined hands to develop a modern gene therapy for cancer treatment indigenously.

Called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy is considered breakthrough in cancer treatment, but is prohibitively expensive at ₹3-4 crore per patient. Currently, this technology is not available for treatment in India and the major challenge was to develop it in a cost-effective manner so that cancer patients in India benefit from it, an official statement said on Tuesday.

Last week, the research team tried out the CAR-T cell therapy (a from of gene therapy) for the first time at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. These CAR-T cells were designed and made at Bioscience and Bioengineering department (BSBE) at IIT-Bombay.

First in the country

This is a “first in India” gene therapy in early phase pilot clinical trial and the dedicated efforts and a collaboration between IIT Bombay and TMH. The Central government’s National Biopharma Mission-BIRAC (Biotechnology Industry Research Advisory Council) has approved ₹19.15 crore to the team for conducting a first-in-human phase-1/2 clinical trial of the CAR-T cells.

The clinical trials are being done by Dr (Surg Cdr) Gaurav Narula, Professor of Paediatric Oncology and Health Sciences, and his team from TMC. The novel CAR-T cells that will act as drugs were manufactured by Rahul Purwar, a BSBE professor and his team. The design, development, and extensive pre-clinical testing was carried out by IIT-B as a collaborative project with TMC by the two investigators – Purwar and Narula.

IIT-B director Subhasis Chaudhuri said this was a significant feat for the institute as well as for the country. “We at IIT-B are delighted that our scientists along with Tata Memorial Hospital have come out with the most sophisticated therapy in cancer treatment. If the trials are successful, it may save millions of lives by making the treatment available in India at an affordable cost. It is a research of IIT-B that is expected to touch the lives of all,” Chaudhuri said.

The manufacturing complexity is a major reason for the therapy cost. In order to promote and support development of CAR-T cell technology against cancer and other diseases, BIRAC and its parent body Department of Biotechnology. Had launched specialised calls to invite proposals in the last 2 years.

National Biopharma Mission is also supporting the development of Lentiviral vector manufacturing facility for packaging plasmids used to transfer the modified T cell inside the body, cGMP facility for T-cell transduction and expansion for CAR T-cell manufacturing to two other organisations.

The development of CAR-T cell technology for diseases including acute lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, glioblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and type-2 diabetes is supported through DBT, the statement said.

Published on June 08, 2021

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