In Focus: From the lab to the clinic in New Zealand’s first CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial

Dr Nathaniel Dasyam is a postdoctoral researcher who has been working in the Malaghan Institute’s CAR T-cell therapy programme since 2019. Nathaniel is a self-described ‘Jack of all trades’ when it comes to his role within the programme..

Nathaniel works in the research team, where the CAR T-cells are designed, and supports both the GMP team, where the CAR T-cells are manufactured, and the clinical team, who administer the CAR T-cells to participants in the trial.

“It just so happened that the project I was working on previously at the Malaghan Institute, to test a therapeutic vaccine for melanoma, laid the groundwork for many of the processes that needed to be in place to manufacture CAR T-cells.”

This placed Nathaniel in an ideal position to help the CAR T-cell team develop methods needed to test CAR T-cells for the ENABLE clinical trial – a first of this kind for New Zealand. This was no mean feat given it involves developing a gene therapy in a highly regulated environment.

CAR T-cell therapy works by extracting a patient’s own immune cells and modifying them in the lab to identify and attack cancer cells once they have been returned to the patient. The ENABLE trial uses CAR T-cells to treat patients with certain types of relapsed and refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, who have exhausted other treatment options. Read more here: first-car-t-cell-therapy-clinical-trial