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13 June 2018

Nkarta takes up NUS and St Judes patents

Nkarta has added further patents advancing an immuno-oncological approach honed by scientific founder Dario Campana.

Author: Callum Cyrus, reporter

Nkarta Therapeutics, a US-based cellular therapy developer based on research from National University of Singapore and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, licensed additional immuno-oncological patents from the same two institutions on Monday.

The licence relates to approaches for engineering chimeric receptors for natural killer cells while also stimulating the cells' production. Chimeric antigen receptor cell therapy (Car-T) exploits chimeric receptors to direct immune system bodies such as natural killer cells in fighting cancerous blood malignancies.

Founded in 2015, Nkarta Therapeutics focuses on using natural killer cells as an immuno-oncological alternative to T-cells, which Nkarta regards as having comparatively limited therapeutic benefit.

The company builds on research by scientific founder Dario Campana, the chairman of advanced cellular therapy at NUS who previously worked for St Jude. Campana’s research also underpins the latest series of patents.

Nkarta Therapeutics received an undisclosed amount of funding in 2017 from SR One, the corporate VC fund of pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. SR One was also among Nkarta’s three founding investors two years previously, together with pharmaceutical firm Novo’s strategic investment vehicle Novo Ventures and venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

Paul Hastings, president and chief executive of Nkarta Therapeutics, said: “Through this agreement, we have solidified our position as leaders in natural killer cell technology.

“Natural Killer cells have a unique, innate ability to target and destroy cancer cells, but the amount generated by the body is not sufficient to overcome the disease.

"With this licence we have gained access to exclusive expansion and targeting technologies that will generate an abundant supply of our proprietary engineered and enhanced NK cells that can selectively kill tumour cells.”

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