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The Future is Now

By: Dr. Arie Belldegrun

Many years ago, I had a conversation with my mentor, Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D. at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) about his ability to successfully modify a patient’s immune cells to fight cancer. Today, with this first CAR T approval from Novartis, Steve has reached the milestone he has been chasing for two decades.

The technology, CAR T, was scientifically elegant and appealing but logistically complex, involving taking blood from the individual, using that blood as the critical starting material in a custom manufacturing process, then re-infusing the cells back into the patient.

Over and over, he heard the CAR T concept was too unwieldy and could never be done at the kind of scale needed to commercialize it. Steve disagreed, as did I. A group from Novartis, operating independently, disagreed. And we announced this week, Gilead also disagrees and believes in the future of CAR T and cell therapy.

Today, the faith we all had has been rewarded with this first-ever approval of a CAR T therapy from Novartis. This is a win for everyone, the most important winners being patients.

I turn it over to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who perhaps has said it best, “We’re entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer. New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses…”

At Kite, each and every one of us has dedicated our lives to what we knew was possible. Together with Gilead and their bold belief in Kite and cell therapy, even more is possible. I am convinced we will achieve more than what others believed possible. The greatest reward will be the growing number of patients who will benefit.

We have seen the future of CAR T for patients. The future is now.