UGent and Glycostem sign partnership on NK cell therapy technology with opportunities for improved cancer treatment


Glycostem Therapeutics B.V., a biotech company that develops therapeutic off-the-shelf Natural Killer (NK) cells, and Ghent University have signed a license agreement for an innovative NK cell production technology. The technology is based on the work by CRIG group leader prof. Georges Leclercq and his team, and opens new opportunities for the development of NK-antibody combination therapies that can significantly benefit to more targeted treatment of cancer patients.

Natural Killer cells are part of our innate immune system, and attack and kill malignant cells such as cancer cells. Thanks to the technology, which was based on the research at the lab of CRIG group leader prof. Georges Leclercq, the expression of specific receptors (CD16) on the surface of NK cells is upregulated, allowing increased binding to antibodies and therefore increasing the activity of the NK cells. In addition, the technology also allows faster production of NK cells, therefore increasing cost efficiency and production capacity. 

"This partnership is the result of continuing efforts by Ghent University and Ghent University Hospital to become a leading academic and clinical center for cell-based therapies. This technology is part of our growing portfolio of oncology and Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMP) related assets that we are actively developing from the bench to the bedside through our translational platforms, such as CRIG (focus on cancer) and GATE (focus on advanced therapy medicinal products)" - Dr. Dominic De Groote, UGent business developer and member of the CRIG business unit.


The partnership aims to create more targeted and effective treatment of cancer patients. In current treatment strategies, antibodies against specific tumor markers are administered, but this requires proper functioning of the patient's immune system. When the patient's immunity is weak, the administration of external, active NK cells will boost the patient's immune system and increase the therapeutic effectiveness of the antibodies to treat cancer.

"We are glad to see our research translated to a clinical setting as it is based on many years of fundamental research into NK cell biology. We hope that with this collaboration, we can positively impact the lives of many patients affected by difficult to treat cancers." - Prof. Georges Leclercq, head of the UGent research team CRIG group leader


Links to items in the media:

  • link to the press article on the website of Glycostem
  • link (in Dutch) to the news item on the website of Ghent University