GlaxoSmithKline and Lyell Immunopharma have announced a five-year collaboration to develop new technologies to improve cell therapies for cancer patients.

The companies explained that the collaboration will apply Lyell’s technologies to further strengthen GSK’s cell therapy pipeline, including GSK3377794, which targets the NY-ESO-1 antigen that is expressed across multiple cancer types.

T cells have not yet delivered strong clinical activity in common solid tumours, despite two cell therapies having been approved for blood-borne cancers; so combining GSK’s strong cell and gene therapy programmes with Lyell’s technologies “may allow the joint research team to maximise the activity and specificity of cell therapies in solid tumour cancers,” where there is a high unmet medical need.

Lyell is currently exploring several approaches to improving T cell function and increasing T cell “fitness” to enhance initial response rates in solid tumour cancers and to prevent relapses due to loss of T cell functionality.

The collaboration will also build on GSK’s manufacturing platform and expertise for cell and gene therapy that delivered the world’s first approved ex vivo gene therapy – Strimvelis - for ADA-SCID in 2016.

Dr. Hal Barron, chief scientific officer and president, R&D, GSK said: “We are witnessing significant scientific innovation in cell and gene therapies, transforming the treatment of some blood-borne cancers, but patients with solid tumours are in need of equally effective treatments.”

He continued, “Applying Lyell’s novel approach to counter T cell exhaustion and working with world class scientists, such as Rick Klausner and his impressive team, increases our probability of delivering the next generation of cancer cell therapies for patients with solid tumours.”