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New Findings on Natural Killer (NK) Cells as Cancer Therapy for Glioblastoma, Leukemia and Lymphoma Published by Helix 51 Incubator Company

Artec Biotech, a company in RFU’s Helix 51 Incubator, is developing a potentially promising treatment for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a deadly cancer for which patients have few if any therapeutic alternatives. 

Artec is a developer of technology to convert stem cells to natural killer (NK) cells, which are less toxic and more efficient than other platforms for cellular immunotherapy. The company joined Helix 51, the first of its kind in Lake County, Illinois, in 2022.

“RFU is helping scientists make the leap from discovery to commercialization of urgently needed new therapeutics,” said Ronald Kaplan, PhD, executive vice president for research. “We’re offering the affordable wet-lab space and supportive programming that young companies need to grow, garner investment and translate their research into effective treatments for difficult-to-treat diseases.”

The company’s novel therapeutic approach — creating NK cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to target GBM — is outlined in “In Vitro Vascular Differentiation System Efficiently Produces Natural Killer Cells for Cancer Immunotherapies,” in the journal OncoImmunology.

The publication is the result of a collaborative study among Artec investigators and researchers from several institutions including: RFU’s Clinical Immunology Lab; Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute of Lurie Children’s Hospital; Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine; Emory University; and the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“Our research assessed the authenticity, efficacy and toxicity of hPSCs-NK in vitro and in vivo, revealing advantages over peripheral blood-derived NK cells that include diminished checkpoint inhibition signaling and enhanced metabolic gene expression,” said Artec Co-Founder and CEO Vasiliy Galat, PhD. “It also showed significant efficacy against cancers like leukemias and lymphoma, in addition to GBM.”

Unlike CAR-T cells, which are customized for individual patients, NK cells can be transferred between patients, making them a potentially universal treatment. They do not attack healthy cells in another individual, and they do not induce cytokine storms. Their role, as part of the innate immune system, is to kill unhealthy and virally infected cells and eliminate early signs of cancer. NK cells — both natural and engineered — are safer, more patient-friendly and represent the next wave of cancer therapy.

Posted February 1
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