German Firms Working on Innovative Cancer Treatment

February 2022

One of the most promising areas in the fight against cancer is so-called CAR-T therapies. At its core are genetically engineered chimeric antigen receptor T cells that allow the immune system to specifically target cancer cells.

The technology is being explored around the world, led by the US and China, but Europe is increasingly catching on to its potential as well. The number of developmental projects there rose from 120 to 213 from 2020 to 2021. And some heavyweight German companies are getting involved. Bayer, for instance, has been cooperating with California company Atara since late last year. And biotech companies like Biontech, Gemoab, Immatics, T-Knife and Miltenyi have research projects ongoing as well.

© iStock.com/Nicolas Loran

One main challenge is reduce the enormous effort and cost required by Car-T treatments. Gemoab, from the eastern German city of from Dresden, is focusing on fine-tuned cells from healthy donors. It’s working with the Nobel-Prize-winning, “genetic scissors” Crisp-Cas technology.

“Just as there are universal donors of blood…with the help of modern genetic technology, defense cells from individual donors can be used for a variety of people,” Gemoab founder and professor emeritus for internal medicine Gerhard Ehninger told business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Miltenyi Biomedicine from the western town of Bergisch-Gladbach, by contrast, focuses not on T cells, but natural killer cells, also known as NK cells or large granular lymphocytes (LGL), taken from healthy donors. Miltenyi has several CAR-T therapies for various types of blood cancer in the clinical testing phase.