A new consortium is bringing together NovaCell—Villanova’s Center for Cellular Engineering—with leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry to improve cell and gene therapy products, and the bioprocesses used to make them. Director William Kelly, professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, recently welcomed Janssen Research & Development, LLC as the first member of Villanova’s Consortium for Cell and Gene Therapy (CCGT). With the partnership comes a new one-year project. “Investigating the effects of bioprocess conditions on killer T cell growth, differentiation and function” involves Dr. Kelly and NovaCell researchers Drs. Anil Bamezai, professor of Biology, and Aimee Eggler, associate professor of Biochemistry.
“Generating a robust killer (CD8+) T cell response in the body is critical for effective immune surveillance against cancer,” says Dr. Kelly. Cellular immunotherapies against varieties of cancers that escape natural immune surveillance require effective and scalable strategies for ex vivo growth and differentiation of T cells isolated from the patient. NovaCell researchers will investigate effects of bioprocess conditions such as shear levels on killer T cell expansion (growth rate), differentiation (to other Tcell types) and ability to target and kill cancer cells. Decreasing levels of T cell activation has been observed with increasing bioreactor mixing conditions due to cell damage and, presumably, decreased surface molecule interactions. Based on published accounts and NovaCell researchers’ own experiences in scaling the growth of killer T cells, Dr. Kelly hopes to identify bioprocess condition(s) that promote generation of memory T cells (CD8+) with high survival and effector function.
The NovaCell consortium is an open environment that allows partners from academia, industry and the medical sector to pursue collaborative research designed to address shared challenges associated with the development, manufacture and availability of cellular products. Through annual membership contributions, the consortium’s shared pool of funds supports multi-partner research projects, which members guide through an internal proposal process. Members have access to the results of all consortium-funded projects and can use these findings to enhance their own internal development efforts. To learn more contact Dr. Kelly at William.J.Kelly@villanova.edu.