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Chemical Engineering of Natural Killer Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy

Project description

Engineered NK cells against cancer

Tumours have evolved mechanisms for evading immune system responses including T cell exhaustion. To address this problem, scientists have come up with immunotherapy strategies to awaken or reeducate the immune system against cancer. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) natural killer (NK) cells are genetically engineered to recognise a specific target antigen. Despite their great promise, CAR-NK cell production is laborious and costly. The ERC-funded CHEMCELL project aims to address this limitation through an innovative labelling and engineering approach. Researchers will produce antibody-modified NK cells and test them against conventional CAR-NK cells for their anti-cancer efficiency.


Our immune system evolved to protect our bodies from different invaders and to fight against infections and diseases. Immune cells use sophisticated ways to detect and destroy abnormal cells, while sparing our own cells. Unluckily, cancer cells often develop sneaky tricks enabling them to evade this protecting machinery and to survive and proliferate. Immunotherapy, an emerging concept of treatment, aims to employ the power of immune system to fight cancer by boosting or reeducation of immune cells. One of the approaches, the adoptive cell transfer therapy, especially in the form of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) cells, has shown an unprecedented success in the treatment of certain types of cancer. CAR cells are genetically modified immune cells engineered to recognize and kill cells with specific cancer antigen. Unfortunately, production of genetically modified CARs is problematic, inefficient, time consuming and therefore, associated with high costs. New approaches enabling production of modified immune cells more effectively, faster and cheaper could therefore change the way the therapy is used. Within this proposal, we will explore the potential of an innovative approach for production of chemically engineered immune cells and their application in immunotherapy. In particular, we will employ our technology based on combination of metabolic engineering and subsequent biocompatible chemical labeling to produce an antibody modified natural killer (NK) cells that we will investigate in cancer killing experiments. We will perform a side-by-side comparison of our technology with the ‘traditional’ CAR-NK cells both, in vitro and in vivo, to evaluate the pros and cons of both approaches. Finally, in collaboration with our Tech Transfer Office, we will present the technology to potential stakeholders to bring it to the next step in the form of patent licensing or eventually, develop the technology further within spin-out company.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
16610 Praha 6

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Česko Praha Hlavní město Praha
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)