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Orion and the Blood Service launch collaboration to develop new CAR T-cell cancer therapy


Orion Corporation and the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service have concluded an agreement on research collaboration with the aim of developing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

Cancer immunotherapies, with CAR T-cell therapy as one form of therapy, have introduced entirely new possibilities for cancer treatment. In CAR T-cell therapy, the patient's own white blood cells are genetically modified to attack the cancer and kill it. CAR T-cells are currently used to treat certain haematological cancers.

The first T-cell therapies received marketing authorisation in the USA in 2017 and in Finland in 2019 for the treatment of recurrent acute lymphocytic leukaemia and B-cell lymphoma. Despite the good treatment results, development needs have been identified in CAR T-cell therapies, which is why research related to CAR-T cell therapy is being pursued.

The Blood Service has considerable experience in cell research, in the supply of cord blood and stem cell grafts classified as tissue products, and in the preparation of ATMP cell products classified as medicinal products. The Blood Service also has expertise and the necessary clean rooms for the research and high-quality production of therapeutic cells.

Orion has a solid research infrastructure and has introduced several proprietary drugs to the market in different therapy areas. Orion's oncology therapy area researches and develops novel proprietary drugs for the treatment of cancer. In recent years, Orion has expanded its research activities to include immuno-oncology therapies.

New possibilities for cancer treatment

The research collaboration is based on new innovations to improve the structure of the CAR T-cell product. Matti Korhonen, Senior Medical Officer, who leads the research at the Blood Service, believes that the collaboration offers a great opportunity to develop new cell therapy products for patient care. According to Oliver Cooper, Ph.D., director of Discovery Sciences at Orion’s R&D, Orion’s drug development expertise will provide the necessary momentum for this project.

“Targeted immunotherapy has opened up entirely new possibilities for the treatment of cancer, and it is important to advance this development in Finland, too. I also believe that as a result of the development work, more and more patients will be able to benefit from this effective treatment,” says Matti Korhonen

Project managers Satu Juhila from Orion and Jan Koski from the Blood Service say that the collaboration has got off to a good start: “Both parties are very enthusiastic regarding the opportunities of the collaboration and about advancing the development of cell therapy in Finland. We believe that the collaboration will provide plenty of new opportunities for the development of cell therapy products.”

Finnish Red Cross Blood Service
The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service is the nationwide blood service provider in Finland. Its services comprise recruiting blood donors, organising blood donation, collecting blood and testing the donated blood. It is also responsible for producing and storing blood products and delivering them to hospitals. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service is also responsible for supplying stem cell transplants, the HLA typing of organ and stem cell transplants and various laboratory testing related to blood. The Blood Service’s Cell Production Centre develops and produces experimental cell therapy products for the treatment of patients. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service conducts scientific research related to its field. More detailed information is available in the Blood Service annual report 2020.

Further information:

Orion Corporation:
Outi Vaarala
Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Orion Corporation
Tel. +358 10 426 3472

Contact person for the media:

Terhi Ormio
Vice President, Communications, Orion Corporation
Tel. +358 50 966 4646 

Finnish Red Cross, Blood Service:
Matti Korhonen, Senior Medical Officer
Finnish Red Cross, Blood Service
Tel. +358 50 396 9450

Contact person for the media:
Willy Toiviainen, Director of Communications and Human Resources
Finnish Red Cross, Blood Service
Tel. +358 40 523 7451

Orion Corporation
Orionintie 1A, FI-02200 Espoo, Finland

Orion is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company – a builder of well-being. Orion develops, manufactures and markets human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company is continuously developing new drugs and treatment methods. The core therapy areas of Orion’s pharmaceutical R&D are neurological disorders, oncology and respiratory diseases for which Orion develops inhaled pulmonary medication. Orion’s net sales in 2020 amounted to EUR 1,078 million, and the company had about 3,300 employees at the end of the year. Orion’s A and B shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki.