Korean collaboration brings gene-splicing genius to Melbourne cancer project

13 Feb 2019

Australia’s world-class Medtech research has received an overseas boost, with Korean gene-editing specialist, ToolGen, signing a collaborative partnership with Melbourne-based biotech company, Cartherics.

Cartherics is leading a A$3 million project to improve the effectiveness of gene-therapy treatments for patients with potentially fatal cancers. Scientists hope to boost patients’ immune response to cancer by genetically modifying existing disease-fighting T cells.

If the research project succeeds a new immunotherapy treatment could begin human clinical trials in 2021. This treatment could potentially transform potentially fatal diseases into manageable conditions.

The company’s team of research scientists is based at the Monash Health Translation Precinct. The joint research agreement combines Cartherics’ immunology and stem cell science expertise with ToolGen’s advanced gene-editing techniques.

According to Cartherics Chief Executive, Professor Alan Trounson, the collaboration aims to find ways to quickly modify patients’ immune-related T cells into chimaeric antigen receptor, or CAR-T, cells. Called ‘immunotherapy’, this personalised approach to fighting aggressive cancers is gaining medical attention across the world.

‘This collaboration will enable precision gene-editing of stem cells to track and destroy targeted tumours,’ says Professor Trounson. ‘Our goal is to develop accessible, off-the-shelf immune-cell therapies for aggressive diseases such as relapsed ovarian and bowel cancers.’

According to ToolGen Chief Executive, Kim Jong-moon, the collaboration with Cartherics is an example of the wide range of applications of gene-therapy technologies.

‘We will continue to collaborate in various cell-therapy programs to accelerate the commercialisation of gene-correction technology,’ he says.

Austrade Korea seeks to enhance the Australia–Korea strategic partnership in the life science sector through various events such as BIOKOREA and AusBiotech.

With the support of Austrade in Korea, ToolGen participated in the AusBiotech 2018 conference which was held in Brisbane. Prior to that, ToolGen also attended Austrade Korea-run events and the Australian programs at BIOKOREA 2018.

Austrade will lead an Australian delegation to BIOKOREA 2019 in Seoul from 17th–19 April. Please contact Juliet Woo (+82 2 398 2809), Senior Business Development Manager, Austrade Korea for details.

Cartherics is a startup medical research company based at the Monash Medical Precinct in Melbourne. It currently leads a A$3 million Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Co-operative Research Centre project into potential CAR-T treatments, in partnership with the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Mesoblast Ltd and Cell Therapies Pty Ltd.

Founded in 1999 and based in Seoul, Korea, ToolGen is an expert gene-editing company that conducts research into therapeutics and molecular breeding. The company collaborates with gene-technology companies around the world to pioneer new gene-therapy treatments.