St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Tessa Therapeutics Announce Strategic Collaboration

Date: 21 Sep 2018 | Download Press Release (PDF)

  • The collaboration between St. Jude and Tessa aims to advance cellular immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancer
  • St. Jude and Tessa will pioneer a novel approach to pediatric high grade gliomas, aggressive brain cancers in children, in which multiple cancer antigens will be targeted by chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified Virus-Specific T cells

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE & SINGAPORE – 21 September 2018 – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (St. Jude), the U.S. hospital leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases, together with Tessa Therapeutics (Tessa), a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, today announced the establishment of a strategic collaboration focusing on the development of novel cellular immunotherapies that could lead to new treatment options for children with brain cancer.

The goal of the partnership is to accelerate the preclinical development of CAR-expressing Virus- Specific T cells (VSTs) leading to clinical testing in the near future. Stephen Gottschalk, M.D., chair of the St. Jude Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, leads the St. Jude team of investigators, which also includes Giedre Krenciute, Ph.D., and Jean-Yves Metais, Ph.D.

“The strategic collaboration will advance our understanding of how CARs work in VSTs,” Gottschalk said. “The gained knowledge will be critical for optimizing CAR VSTs targeting multiple tumor antigens expressed in pediatric high-grade gliomas.”

For the collaboration’s first project, the research teams of Gottschalk and John E. Connolly, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Tessa Therapeutics, will develop a new treatment for pediatric high- grade gliomas, an aggressive form of brain cancer in children, which currently has very few treatment options.

“We are excited to team up with St. Jude in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Andrew Khoo, Tessa Therapeutics CEO and Co-Founder. “St. Jude, one of the leading pediatric cancer hospitals in the U.S., shares our vision of working toward a cure for cancer. We believe our joint effort will accelerate advances in cellular immunotherapy and lead us a step closer to achieving this vision. Together, we aim to bring new hope to children suffering from cancer in the U.S. and around the world.”

Notably, the teams at Tessa and St. Jude will explore a new approach to cellular immunotherapy by targeting multiple tumor antigens with CARs using Tessa’s VST platform. This novel multi-CAR VST approach carries the potential to improve survival rates in children as well as reduce the chance of tumor escape, a phenomenon where cancer evolves to evade a successful treatment.

“If successful,” Gottschalk said, “multi-CAR VSTs could be adapted to other pediatric cancers that cannot be cured with conventional therapies.”

Connolly added, “High-grade glioma is a tumor where in some cases, we have seen a reduction in tumor volume following cell therapy treatment. However, after some time the tumor starts growing again. One reason could be that current therapies only target single tumor antigens. Over time, cancer cells may mutate and stop displaying the target antigen. Targeting multiple antigens should prevent the cancer from taking this escape strategy. The promise of the multi-CAR VST approach we are taking together with St. Jude is incredibly exciting.”

Cellular immunotherapy is a new cancer treatment that harnesses the patient’s immune system to fight the disease. It is widely considered one of the most promising advances toward a cure for cancer. T cells are removed from the patient’s blood and re-engineered to recognize the cancer cells. The T cells are then expanded to large numbers and infused back into the patient where the T cells seek out and destroy the cancer cells.


St. Jude Media Relations Contacts

Marvin Stockwell
Desk: (901) 595-6384
Cell: (901) 734-8766

Michael Sheffield
Desk: (901) 595-0221
Cell: (901) 379-6072


Tessa Therapeutics Media Contacts
Brunswick Group
Will Carnwath, Ben Fry
+65 6426 8188


About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute- designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.


About Tessa Therapeutics

Tessa Therapeutics is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company with the scientific vision of revolutionizing the treatment of cancer by redirecting the body’s potent anti-viral immune response to recognize and kill cancer cells. Tessa’s virus-specific T cell (VST) platform has shown compelling results in the treatment of solid tumors, and the Company is building a portfolio of therapies addressing a wide range of tumors by combining the qualities of its T cell platform with complementary technologies. Tessa’s lead Phase III trial for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is the world’s largest Phase III T cell immunotherapy trial for any cancer indication. The Company is also conducting a Phase I trial targeting cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancer which is expected to move into Phase II in 2019. In addition, Tessa is developing a broad pipeline of pre-clinical programs targeting major cancers such as liver and lung cancer. The Company has built up robust operational and supply chain capabilities to successfully deliver T cell therapy treatments to a large patient pool across five countries. The combination of technologies from its academic, clinical, and commercial research partners have enabled Tessa to create a fully-integrated approach to the treatment of cancer with immunotherapy. For more information on Tessa, please visit