Leukaemia cell therapy research receives new funding

Waseem Qasim
A cutting-edge research project applying the next generation of genome editing to treat aggressive childhood leukaemia has received over £1.4 million of funding from UK Research and Innovation.

The research will be led by the Professor Waseem Qasim (pictured above), who is an National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professor at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH) and Professors Paul Veys and Ajay Vora at the leukaemia and transplant services at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and will build on the success of previous research investigating how engineered immune cells can be used for 'hard-to-treat' childhood leukaemia.

The team recently showed that it is possible to use emerging genome editing approaches to modify immune cells from healthy donors so that they can be used without the need for matching to the recipient. When introduced to patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), these ‘universal’ cells can specifically fight and kill leukaemia cells

The new research applies CRISPR genome editing to modify CAR-T cells and uses a largely automated machine process developed with support from the NIHR GOSH Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The project aims to provide access to additional treatment options using ‘off the shelf’ cells for children with ALL who have failed to respond to other therapies.

This award is part of a £23 million funding boost for cutting edge health research announced by the government last week and falls under the Biomedical Catalyst programme, a scheme which is jointly run by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council, both part of UK Research and Innovation.