NK Cell Technologies

3D Rendering of NK Natural Killer Cell Inspecting Cell Surface MHC Proteins
© Alpha Tauri 3D - stock.adobe.com

In recent years, gene-modified T cells have led to astonishing results in the treatment of some types of leukemia. However, these therapies are costly, require long manufacturing processes and are only effective against a few tumor types.

In the NK Cell Technologies Unit, state-of-the-art genetic engineering techniques are used to enable natural killer (NK) cells to efficiently fight cancer cells. NK cells are part of the innate immune system, and NK cell-based advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) can be produced from healthy donor cells, creating an "off-the-shelf" product that can be delivered to many patients. Current therapeutic approaches using NK cells, while very safe for patients, are often not effective enough to permanently reduce tumor burden. The focus of our work is on various approaches to increase the cytotoxicity of NK cells against tumor cells.

Our core competencies in this regard include

ATMP Design

  • Immune cell engineering (main focus: NK cells)
  • Immune receptor design, e.g. CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) or TCRs (T cell receptors)
  • Vector design
  • Viral gene transfer
  • Immune cell activation and expansion

In vitro test assays

  • Cytotoxicity assays and cytokine release
  • Cell migration assays
  • Immune cell phenotyping

We could contribute these competences to the following projects, for example:

  • Design of CARs from the binding sequences of monoclonal antibodies into NK cell-specific CARs
  • Functional comparison of artificial immune receptors or other modifications in reporter cells, NK cell lines and primary NK cells