More haste, less speed: Could public-private partnerships advance cellular immunotherapies?

Tania Bubela, Katherine Bonter, Silvy Lachance, Jean Sébastien Delisle, E. Richard Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular immunotherapies promise to transform cancer care. However, they must overcome serious challenges, including: (1) the need to identify and characterize novel cancer antigens to expand the range of therapeutic targets; (2) the need to develop strategies to minimize serious adverse events, such as cytokine release syndrome and treatment-related toxicities; and (3) the need to develop efficient production/manufacturing processes to reduce costs. Here, we discuss whether these challenges might better be addressed through forms of public-private research collaborations, including public-private partnerships (PPPs), or whether these challenges are best addressed by way of standard market transactions. We reviewed 14 public-private relationships and 25 underlying agreements for the clinical development of cancer cellular immunotherapies in the US. Most were based on bilateral research agreements and pure market transactions in the form of service contracts and technology licenses, which is representative of the commercialization focus of the field. We make the strategic case that multiparty PPPs may better advance cancer antigen discovery and characterization and improved cell processing/manufacturing and related activities. In the rush toward the competitive end of the translational continuum for cancer cellular immunotherapy and the attendant focus on commercialization, many gaps have appeared in our understanding of cellular biology, immunology, and bioengineering. We conclude that the model of bilateral agreements between leading research institutions and the private sector may be inadequate to efficiently harness the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge of the public and private sectors to bring these promising therapies to the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoptive cellular transfer
  • Cancer
  • CAR-T cell
  • Cellular immunotherapy
  • Collaborative Research and Development Agreements
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Technology licensing


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