Stephenson gets initial clearance for new leukemia treatment

Published: Thursday, November 30, 2017 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record
investors well before the FDA’s approval. In 2014, for example, Kite Pharma attracted $128 million in an initial public offering, or IPO, with only a single trial to stand on. Cutting-edge biotech isn’t cheap by the time it reaches consumers: Novartis earlier this year revealed the price for a single CAR T-cell infusion at $475,000, refundable if patients didn’t respond within a month.

New technology has a way of generating tangential ideas that lead to other new products, said Scott Meacham, chief executive of the nonprofit i2E business support agency. He cited Oklahoma City-based Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp. as an example: In 2012, while developing a drug to treat pain from sickle cell disease, Novartis stepped up with an offer to buy the company for more than $660 million. After closing that deal in 2016, Selexys CEO Scott Rollins and his team decided to form another company, Tetherex, with the goal of developing a similar approach to Crohn’s disease and other diseases.

“It’s what we call a platform technology, where you get multiple applications off of something new,” Meacham said. “I’m not familiar with the CAR T application, but I can see it happening.”

Kacy Lowe, area director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said the national organization is excited about the potential of CAR T-cell therapy and is anticipating increased traffic to Oklahoma City when the Stephenson center is finally certified. The nonprofit LLS provides education and support for patients. It often refers families to nearby hotels during extended stays for treatment.

The organization provides co-pay financial help for medical services as well as baby-sitting and travel assistance. Many of the families who need to come to Oklahoma City are from rural areas, and they lose income while staying with patients, she said. Lowe said she expects greater demands for assistance once Stephenson offers CAR T treatment. LLS also works closely with Integris, Mercy and St. Anthony hospital systems, as well as smaller clinics throughout the state.

Asch said patients are expected from across the country. They’ll be under close observation for the first two to four weeks following treatment.

“It’s our goal to put ourselves out of business with the end of cancer. Until then, we want to make sure every single patient who can reaches out for assistance,” Lowe said.

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