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Indian Scholars Develop Revolutionary Tech to Treat Cancer

Cancer Immunotherapy Using CAR T-Cells

University scientists in India, in breakthrough research, have developed technology to leverage a patient’s immune system to cure cancer.

Such immunotherapy using CAR T-cells, a treatment for cancer, which can often cost over US$4 million, can be made available for a little over US$21,000 if the technology is developed in the country.

Researchers made use of gene and cell therapies to re-engineer immune cells to attack and kill cancer cells in the body. The treatment is less painful than surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, and is known to lower the chances of a relapse.

The therapy, which seems promising in the treatment of cancer, especially leukaemia, is currently not available in India. With the growing burden of cancer in the country, success in even a fraction of the patients using the technique will be remarkable, experts said.

A facility has been created for it at the hospital’s Kharghar campus. T-cells (a type of white blood cell or WBC), an integral part of the human immune system, can identify tumours and destroy them. But in advanced stages, the cancer cells adapt to the presence of T-cells and remain undetected.

In the new approach in immunotherapy, called CAR (chimeric antigen receptors) T-cell therapy, the T-cell’s ability to detect and kill cancer cells is restored. CARs are proteins that assist T-cells to recognise and attach to protein or antigen, present on cancer cells. These proteins help to destroy cancer cells.

The team of scientists from the institute’s Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering have conducted laboratory tests and hope to start clinical trials in collaboration with another team from a renowned hospital next year, after getting permission from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).

Support for Indian MedTech

Support for biotechnology and medical technology (MedTech) has been on the rise in India lately. Worth US$50 billion in 2018, the Indian bioeconomy currently comprises over 85 million biotech companies as well as 2700 start-ups, accounting for a 3% share in the global biotechnology industry.

A recent article noted that the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), in partnership with a group of primarily Indian angel investors funding early-stage start-ups, has announced the launch of BioAngels Network.

The aim is to provide a leg up to innovators who are dedicated to resolving pain points in the country’s healthcare ecosystem. BioAngels will enable the firms to leverage the domain expertise of investors outside of the firm who are supporting biotech ventures across sub-verticals including MedTech, agritech, water and sanitation, among others.

Biotech start-ups are focused on creating an impact in India before they disrupt global markets. The firm would facilitate greater growth opportunities to biotech start-ups on the back of early-stage private.

The platform will facilitate the expansion of BIRAC’s empowering policies, mentoring, and market access to biotech innovators across India and overseas.

The not-for-profit agency was established by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Government of India as an Interface Agency to strengthen and empower the emerging biotech enterprises.

It aims to help them undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs. As an industry-academia interface, the agency implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives including providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to the biotech firms and make them globally competitive.


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