Seattle’s Universal Cells brings Astellas into its fold of off-the-shelf cell therapy partners

One of the Holy Grails in cell therapy right now is the development of off-the-shelf cells that can be used in any patient, the polar opposite of the personalized CAR-Ts now rolling into the market from Novartis and Gilead. And one of the leaders in the field using gene editing technologies to create these cell therapies is appropriately called Universal Cells, based in Seattle.

Claudia Mitchell

Today, Universal Cells added a new partner to its growing list of tech partners. Astellas is handing over a $9 million upfront and promising up to $115 million more in milestones so that the new partners can get started on developing a new cell therapy for an unspecified target.

Among other things, Astellas has been working on stem cell therapies that can be used to treat blindness. Like BlueRock — a Bayer funded startup with $225 million for the A round and another Universal Cells partner — these new ventures are part of a second wave of stem cell drugs fashioned after the first wave largely crashed and disappeared in the surf of biotech R&D.

Claudia Mitchell, CEO of Universal Cells, had this to say in a statement:

This research collaboration will leverage Universal Cells unique approach to major challenge of cell therapies — the immune rejection of allogeneic cells. We look forward to bringing real world Regenerative Medicine treatments to the market with Astellas.

Universal Cells has also partnered with TCR pioneer Adaptimmune $ADAP, which was attracted to the Seattle company’s tech for engineering cell surface proteins without using nucleases.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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