Non-Feeder Cell Expansion System for Human NK and CAR-NK Cells | Rutgers University Innovation Ventures

Non-Feeder Cell Expansion System for Human NK and CAR-NK Cells

Invention Summary:

Current cancer treatments rely on the evolution of novel therapeutics like immunotherapies, such as the transfer and replacement of immune cells in the body. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapies are used for targeted intervention towards cancer cells, especially CAR-T cells. Innovative immunotherapies are currently geared towards exploring CAR-NK cells for its reduced toxicity compared to CAR-T cells such as cytokine storms, neurotoxicity, and cardiotoxicity. However, current feeder cell (FC) systems to stimulate expansion of these cells use co-stimulatory molecules and have a limited lifespan, leaving therapies inadequate for proper utilization in cancer patients. Current FC systems also represent safety and regulatory concerns for clinical application.

Rutgers researchers have developed a novel method for producing both human NK and CAR-NK cells using a non-feeder cell (NFC) system approach, expanding cell populations without using co-stimulatory molecules. The NFC system utilizes exosomes derived from 221.mIL21 cells to mediate intercellular communication and target specific cells and tissues for drug delivery. The inventors revolutionize the FC expansion system by creating an artificial antigen-presenting cell line using 221 cell lines with membrane-bound IL-21 (mIL-21), then utilize isolated exosomes from these cells after TLR agonist stimulation for expansion of NK and CAR-NK cells. Using these exosomes, this NFC expansion system promotes high expansion capability with high cytotoxicity towards tumor cells, while the exosome surface marker expression was comparable to current feeder cell (FC) expansion systems. This method also prolonged NK survival in vitro, showing use in clinical therapeutic intervention. This new approach to expansion of human NK and CAR-NK cells eases potential concerns towards safety and regulation of the FC expansion system for safer therapeutic intervention. 


  • High expansion rates and strong cytotoxicity towards tumor cells
  • High survival in vitro for utilization in clinic
  • Comparable cell surface markers and functions to FC expansion systems

Market Applications:

  • Efficient “off-the-shelf” expansion system for NK and CAR-NK cells without the usage of feeder cells

Intellectual Property & Development Status: Patent pending. Available for licensing and/or research collaboration.

Patent Information:
Shemaila Sultana
Assistant Director
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey