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Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
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CAR-T and Cell Therapy: The Next Wave

Our goal: to engineer smarter, longer-lasting immune cells that find and kill cancer more efficiently and safely.


Cell therapies are “living drugs” that revolutionized cancer care. The first place they found these superhero cancer-killers? Inside a patient’s own veins.

The first wave

T-cells are the warriors of the immune system. When the battle cry calls, they zoom in on cancer cells and strike them down.

One of the first to recognize their power to heal: PICI Director Carl June, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania. To help young leukemia patient Emily Whitehead, he took her T-cells and genetically engineered them to recognize and attack her cancer. Multiplied in the lab and then infused back into her body, these supercharged T-cells wiped out her tumors for good.

Emily lived. And CAR-T – or chimeric antigen receptor therapy – was born.

The next wave

The field has expanded rapidly following the first FDA approval of CAR-T in 2017, with 2,070+ cell therapy agents in development as of June 2021.

Today CAR-T and other types of cell therapy extend beyond just T-cells. Scientists are experimenting with other types of immune cells – such as natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages – and turning them into cancer-killing machines.

What We’re Doing

We develop and test groundbreaking CAR-T and cell therapies.

With our strategic partners, we support and create new technology designed to make these “living drugs” more targeted, longer-lasting and easier to manufacture. We also aim to make cell therapy effective for solid tumors, with reduced chances of off-target effects.

  • Support landmark clinical trials. PICI’s SINATRA cell therapy clinical trial is the first in the nation to utilize CRISPR gene-editing technology.
  • Find a smarter way to manufacture. We cultivate advances in technology that will simplify, speed up and enhance the manufacturing of cellular therapies for the benefit of patients.
  • Invest in the future of cell therapy. PICI invests in promising young companies, founded on groundbreaking work by PICI investigators. With Xyphos, we are creating immune cells that can be programmed to strike multiple targets – and even switch targets – to outsmart cancer.

Clinical Trials and Partnerships