Commercializing Discoveries


It’s not hard to see why some of the best researchers in the world call the Masonic Cancer Center home, with state-of-the-art equipment, well-appointed and abundant laboratory space, translational support, collaboration opportunities, and a legacy of innovation. Thanks to that reputation, some of the top pharmaceutical companies are catching on and calling the Masonic Cancer Center a partner.

Jeffrey Miller, MD, Deputy Director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and his collaborators have partnered with a variety of companies such as Altor Bioscience, Fate Therapeutics, and GT BioPharma are bringing industry dollars to Minnesota.

“A number of these groups found out about us based on our expertise in natural killer (NK) cells,” said Dr. Miller. “We are a world leader in NK cell therapy and they are working with us to bring potentially life-saving drugs to clinical trials.”

Dr. Miller and Frank Cichocki, PhD, are part of a research team that holds a patent for their NK cell immunotherapy which was very interesting to Fate Therapeutics. Funded by Fate Therapeutics, Miller/Cichocki team handles everything from the manufacturing of the specific NK cellular products at the Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics laboratory, manages and executes clinical trials to test the products in patients, and analyzes the data to test the efficacy of the product and outcome of the clinical trial.

The Fate Therapeutics collaboration has yielded positive results, showing stable disease with tumor shrinkage in the Phase-1 clinical trials of administering adapted NK cells, the NK100 product, intraperitoneally in women with ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer resistant to, or recurrent on, platinum-based treatment.

Altor BioScience, Miltenyi Biotec, GT Biopharma, and Gamida all have relied on the expertise of the Masonic Cancer Center as a collaborative partner. The level of partnership between each group and the cancer center varies, but each of the groups sees a major value by investing in the University.

“Working with the excellent researchers and physicians of the University of Minnesota, including Dr. Jeffrey Miller who has been at the forefront of cancer research for over three decades, Fate Therapeutics is changing the paradigm of cancer therapy by developing next-generation cellular immunotherapies,” said Bob Valamehr, Vice President, Cancer Immunotherapy at FATE Therapeutics. “In collaboration with Drs. Miller and Sarah Cooley, Fate Therapeutics is advancing first-in-class adaptive memory NK cells modulated for enhanced anti-tumor properties and first-of-kind off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy that has the potential to change the way cellular therapy is conducted today. Fate Therapeutics is very fortunate to have the unique opportunity to work with the University of Minnesota where the future of medicine is being developed today.