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A New Class of Immunotherapeutics: Using Oncolytic Viruses to Treat Cancer

Scientists have noted the ability of viruses to kill tumor cells for almost a century but have been unable to document the therapeutic use of these viruses in patients with cancer. Interest in this approach is growing, supported by advancing knowledge of viral biology, molecular genetics and tumor immunology. Oncolytic virus immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses viruses to replicate within cancer cells.

In this blog, we’ll briefly explore how viruses, specifically oncolytic viruses, are being used to treat cancer.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Developing Immunotherapies for Cell-Based vs. Non Cell-Based Therapies

Immunotherapies harness the power of the body's own defense mechanism, the immune system, to combat disease. They were initially introduced in the form of non cell-based biologics and vaccines, such as the splurge of products known as the check-point inhibitors designed to target the PD1/PD-L1 immune pathway. An individual would be injected with a weakened form of a virus, exposing the body to the disease and prompting the immune system to produce antibodies to fight the infection from the live virus. In recent years, immunotherapies are expanding into the realm of cell and gene therapy. Cell therapy includes re-engineering the T-cell or immune cells and re-delivering these cells back the patient to treat the cancer.

Both cell-based therapies and non cell-based therapies are developed as immunotherapies and therefore they share some similar challenges in development. However, due to the nature of cell-based therapies manufacturing complexities, there are several additional challenges that must be considered. In this blog we'll take a closer look as some of the challenges that cell-based and non-cell based therapies face, and why cell-based therapies are so complex.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cold-C..........

Amazing Samples: Bone Marrow

When I was young, my father tried to teach me to eat everything put on my plate (though it was an uphill battle, since I was quite the finicky child). One of the few “bizarre” foods that I took a liking to, though, was sucking the marrow out of goat, lamb, or beef curries (my father was clearly not a devout Hindu). Even now, it’s one of my favorite parts of such dishes, and I recently added San Diego to my travel wish list if just to eat swordfish marrow (thanks for the tip, Andrew Zimmern).

But that’s clearly not what we’re going to talk about right now. Everyone knows that human bone marrow is rich in stem cells, specifically hematopoietic. In fact, without research on bone marrow, stem cells might not be as well understood, and accordingly we might not have reached the current burgeoning development in the cell therapy field. Last time in our Amazing Samples blog series, we discussed the value of adipose tissue cells. This time, let’s savor the rich history of bone marrow research.

… Man, I should cook some curry.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

The Other Glass Ceiling: Maintaining Cell Therapies at -135°C

Maintaining biological materials used in cell therapies at temperatures lower than -135°C is much more complicated than simply freezing samples.

The goal of cryopreservation is to prepare stocks of cells for preservation and storage, which prevents the need to maintain all cell lines in culture all the time. Cryogenic storage is especially valuable when dealing with cells presenting a limited lifespan. Even though the technique keeps cells and tissues at very low temperatures, advanced cryopreservation strategies are required to keep these cells viable after thawing. Cryopreservation techniques and equipment focus on bringing samples to very low temperatures without causing additional damage from the formation of ice and other effects of storing living matter at sub-zero temperatures. 

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Biobanking for Biologics and Cell Therapies: All Biobanks Are Not the Same

Until recently, most biorepositories were primarily used for archival sample storage. Researchers would generate large sample collections for research with a broad idea of how they would or could be used.  Although this required expert temperature monitoring while in storage at biorepositories, it did not demand a lot of transactional activity, debits and credits from the inventory, as there was no defined use for the sample.

However, in the last ten years the industry landscape has evolved. With the introduction of advanced biotherapeutics and personalized medicine, biorepositories have transformed from archival storage facilities into true biobanks where the overall workflow now includes numerous complex transactions. Many of these transactions are associated with adding value through an integrated workflow that seamlessly connects the sponsor, bio-manufacturer, clinical center, and patient into a tandem, well-coordinated process chain. Additionally, in some instances sample collections are developed with a more targeted end-use in mind, resulting in smaller inventories.

Let’s explore the expanded focus across our industry from biorepositories for traditional research (biospecimens) to biobanking for therapeutic components (biologics and cell therapies).

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Cell Therapy Clinical Trials: Navigating the operational shift from Phase 1 to Phase 2

When navigating through the various phases of a cell therapy clinical trial, it's important that each phase "sets the stage" for those which follow. All activities that take place in Phase 1 will ultimately impact Phase 2, and so on through to commercialization. This blog will focus on the operational shift from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and the associated challenges with doing so.

Topic: Cell Therapy Solutions, Topic: Kit Producti..........

Amazing Samples: Adipose Tissue

Fat - its popularity depends hugely on context, and varies from person to person. On our own bodies, some cultures stigmatize it while others embrace it. In food, some people think well-marbled ribeyes are the best steak, while others prefer the lean filet mignon (and still others don’t like steak, I guess?). Traditionally, candles and soap has been made of tallow, and some still make it that way (ignoring Fight Club fans), while most people today use some sort of substitute wax or surfactant.

The cells in adipose tissue, however, are not as controversial. In fact, adipocytes are valuable for a number of research applications, from understanding the tissue itself to harnessing the power of stem cells and progenitor cells hidden within the tissue. Last time in our Amazing Samples blog series, we concentrated on the value of progenitor cells. This time, let’s discuss how adipose tissue can be an Amazing Sample.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Latest Cell Therapy and Biobanking Discoveries to be Discussed at Key Events

We are excited to share our participation at four upcoming industry conferences that will focus on the latest cell therapy and biobanking discoveries.

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Cell T..........

Researchers Propose a Validated Phenotyping Algorithm for Genetic Association Studies in Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older. This multifactorial neurodegenerative disease damages the macula, responsible for sharp central vision. Rapid advancement of DNA sequencing technologies has allowed researchers to identify many AMD-associated genetic polymorphisms. However, phenotyping and patient recruitment are currently the most time-consuming steps facing researchers performing this work. Patient identification and DNA collection are often the rate-limiting steps in genetic association studies.

Facilitated by the rapid growth of electronic medical record (EMR)-linked DNA biorepositories, patient selection algorithms can improve efficiency in genetic association studies.

In this blog, we'll discuss a new study, published in Nature, where researchers show that using stepwise validation of such an algorithm could provide reliable cohort selection outcomes and, when networked with an EMR-linked DNA biorepository, replicate previously published AMD-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Topic: Biobanking and Biorepository, Topic: Clinic..........

Amazing Samples: Progenitor Cells

Of all the advances medicine has been making in recent years, regenerative medicine is perhaps the most intriguing. One of the most important cells involved in regenerative medicine is the progenitor cell. These cells are able to differentiate into more functional cells, making our understanding of them and their mechanisms crucial to regenerative medicine and cell therapies.

Last time in our Amazing Samples blog series my colleague, Jaydeb Mukherjee, discussed the research potential of saliva and phlegm. This time, let’s discuss more on how progenitor cells are an Amazing Sample.

Topic: Cell Therapy Solutions, Topic: Amazing Samp..........

New Gene Therapy to Boost Immunity to Cancer

Early in the spring of 2015, researchers from the Imperial College London revealed the discovery of a new protein. The research team believes this protein, named lymphocyte expansion molecule (LEM), enhances the immune system when fighting viruses and cancers. Helping with the research was Harvard Medical SchoolETH Zurich, and the Queen Mary University of London.

Now, scientists and doctors from Imperial, who were study leaders for the LEM protein discovery, are looking to develop a gene therapy that will boost the human immune system’s infection-fighting cells so they can be powerful enough to stop or treat viruses and cancers in humans. Professor Philip Ashton-Rickardt, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial is hoping this early research will soon develop as part of the physician’s armor when fighting viruses and cancers.

Topic: Cell Therapy Solutions, Content: Blog

Clinical Trial Identifies New CAR T-Cell Therapy to Fight Leukemia

Two of our previous blogs, Viral Cell Therapies Fighting Cancer and Researchers Learn How to Turn Cancer Cells into Macrophages, discussed the challenges associated with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and some of the medical breakthroughs being used to fight this difficult disease. A recent article in Blood Journal explains how recurrent ALL is very difficult to treat, but suggests there is real hope for finding a lasting curative therapy for refractory patients. Let's explore the studies findings and uncover additional information on the research into potential ALL cell therapy treatment modalities.

Topic: Clinical Trial Sample Management, Topic: Ce..........