Long-term follow-up of adoptive transfer of autologous T cells expressing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) directed to CD19 antigen has demonstrated encouraging, durable clinical outcome in various B cell malignancies. However, to make such CAR-T cells available to a broader base and to reach a more diverse patient population, challenges associated with product consistency, cost of manufacture, precision genetic engineering and on-demand availability still need to be addressed. FT819 is a first-of-kind off-the-shelf CAR-T cell product candidate derived from a renewable master pluripotent cell line. FT819 comprises precise genetic engineering of multiple targeting events at the single cell level and is produced using a clonally-derived master cell bank (MCB) that serves as the starting material to support consistent and reproducible clinical manufacturing. The engineered features of FT819 include the targeted integration of a novel CD19 1XX-CAR into the T-cell receptor α constant (TRAC) locus to provide antigen specificity, enhanced efficacy and temporally-regulated CAR expression driven by an endogenous (TCR) promoter. Such features are designed to also eliminate the possibility of graft versus host disease (GvHD) by nullifying the TCR.

To develop the MCB for FT819, αβ T cells were reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and subsequently engineered to direct CD19 1XX-CAR into the TRAC locus with knockout of the TCR. To generate clonal lines, engineered iPSCs were sorted by flow cytometry for various markers and single cells were seeded into individual wells of feeder-free 96-well plates. Engineered iPSC clones were screened for integration of CAR into the TRAC locus by amplifying the genomic DNA flanking the homologous recombination site and confirmed by a SNP phasing assay. Clones were further screened for random integration of donor template by quantitative PCR and the CAR copy number was confirmed by droplet digital PCR. Genome stability of each clone was also confirmed by karyotype analysis. Overall, the described screening initiative surveyed 774 clones to select the ideal MCB for FT819.

Utilizing our stage-specific T cell differentiation and expansion protocol, we demonstrated that T cells derived from the FT819 (FT819-iTs) expanded greater than 100,000-fold during the clinical manufacturing process and the cells expressed greater than 95% T lymphocyte markers such as CD45, CD7, intracellular CD3, and TRAC-regulated CAR. Further modifications to the T cell differentiation protocol resulted in enhanced expression of CD8 αβ from less than 25% to greater than 70% of the total population. In addition, expression of CD2, CD5, and CD27 was increased by approximately 5- to 20-fold. In vitro functional studies showed that FT819-iTs possess antigen specificity as confirmed by cytokine release and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) assays. Upon stimulation with a wild type acute lymphoblastic leukemia line, Nalm-6, FT819-iTs expressed 30% CD107a/b compared to 2% when stimulated by Nalm-6 CD19KO. In an in vitro CTL assay, greater than 80% of Nalm-6 WT cells were lysed with effector to target (E:T) ratio at 10:1 as compared to Nalm-6-CD19KO, which showed less than 10% lysis at the same E:T ratio. Finally, in an in vivo tumor model, FT819-iTs generated from our original and modified T cell differentiation protocols showed similar tumor burden control and prolonged survival rate when compared to primary CAR-T cells (days of survival >80days, p>0.1). In a more stringent in vivo model, FT819-iTs generated from the modified differentiation protocol demonstrated higher anti-tumor response and better animal survival rate compared to iTs from the original T cell differentiation protocol (Day 30 p<0.005). Small molecules are known to modulate cell functions and when treated with compound A, FT819-iTs further delayed tumor growth and increased anti-tumor potency when compared to DMSO treated group (Day 17, P<0.05). Collectively, the preclinical studies suggest that FT819 is a consistent and uniform off-the-shelf CAR T cell product candidate with the first-of-kind Phase 1 clinical trial for the treatment of B cell malignancies in an allogeneic setting study planned for 2020.


Chang:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Van Der Stegen:Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Employment. Mili:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Clarke:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Lai:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Witty:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Lindenbergh:Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Employment. Yang:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Husain:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Shaked:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Groff:FATE THERAPEUTICS: Employment. Stokely:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Abujarour:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Employment. Lee:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Employment. Chu:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Pribadi:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Employment. ORourke:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Gutierrez:Fate Therapeutics: Employment. Riviere:Juno Therapeutics: Consultancy, Equity Ownership, Research Funding; Fate Therapeutics: Consultancy; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Employment. Sadelain:Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Employment; Fate Therapeutics: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties; Juno Therapeutics: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties, Research Funding. Valamehr:Fate Therapeutics, Inc: Employment.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.