The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Berkeley Lights said today they have launched a new biopharma focused on developing cancer cell therapies discovered at MD Anderson, and manufacturing them at broad scale.

The new company, Optera Therapeutics, would be able to speed up development of the new treatments and broaden patient access to them by applying Berkeley Lights’ advanced cell therapy manufacturing systems to the new treatments, the company and MD Anderson said.

“Our hope is that by combining our cell therapy research expertise with advanced automation capabilities, we will enhance our ability to deliver these treatments to every patient who needs them,” Patrick Hwu, M.D., division head of cancer medicine at MD Anderson, said in a statement.

Optera plans to develop cell therapies being researched at MD Anderson by investigators specializing in cellular immunology. They include Cassian Yee, M.D., professor of melanoma medical oncology; Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., and Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., both professors of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy; Chantale Bernatchez, Ph.D., assistant professor of melanoma medical oncology; Sattva Neelapu, M.D., professor of lymphoma and myeloma; and Greg Lizee, Ph.D., associate professor of melanoma medical oncology.

“Optera will capitalize on truly disruptive technology and allow us to extend our ability to treat more patients, for more cancers, in a shorter period of time,” Dr. Yee added.

Dr. Yee’s laboratory focuses on developing cancer immunotherapies, specifically adoptive T-cell therapies that involve the isolation of T cells from the peripheral blood, followed by enrichment and expansion of tumor-reactive T cells for infusion into patients with cancer.

“We performed several first-in-man studies using ex vivo expanded antigen-specific T cells that demonstrated long-term persistence of infused T cells with encouraging clinical results, sometimes complete long-lasting responses, and more often a significant delay in time to progression,” according to the web page of his lab. “Our research is focused on developing adoptive T-cell therapy in combination with other immunomodulatory reagents, including checkpoint inhibitors, vaccines, and biologicals, as a treatment option, and defining the intrinsic and extrinsic immune parameters for an effective, durable response.”