PDZ CARs  (SJ-22-0011)

St. Jude Reference #SJ-22-0011


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technologies have been successfully implemented in the clinic for the treatment of hematological malignancies. However, solid tumors remain resilient to CAR-based cell therapeutics. Researchers at St. Jude sought to improve the ability of CARs to activate immune cells by adding a scaffolding protein binding site, specifically a PDZ binding motif, to the C-terminus of the CAR. Thus, our invention consists of a novel CAR design that contains a PDZ binding motif.

Compared to standard CARs, this new design helps to form a more efficient synapse that increases cytotoxicity and anti-tumor activity of CAR-NK cells. This invention is a universal augmentation that can be utilized to enhance existing CAR designs. While we mainly demonstrate its utility in NK cells, this design could be applied to a broad range of immune cells that are currently being developed, for example but not limited to: ab T cells, γδ T cells, or iNKT cells.

Current CAR designs create a disordered and inefficient immune synapse formation which can lead to cellular exhaustion and therapeutic failure from antigen loss on target cells. This novel design allows for multifactorial problems to be solved with the anchoring of the CAR to the internal scaffolding proteins inside the effector cell. This PDZ binding motif constitutes a novel domain for CAR therapeutics, the anchor domain. This domain can be incorporated into current clinical CAR designs to enhance their efficacy and be readily translated into therapeutic use.


Immunotherapy, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), scaffolding protein binding, PDZ binding motif, CAR C-terminus, NK cells, ab T cells, γδ T cells, or iNKT cells, solid tumor, synapse

Granted patents or published applications

Application filed, available under confidentiality

Related scientific references

Chockley, P.J., Ibanez-Vega, J., Krenciute, G. et al. Synapse-tuned CARs enhance immune cell anti-tumor activity. Nat Biotechnol (2023).

Licensing opportunities

We are seeking partners to develop cell therapies using this new method.  

Contact the Office of Technology Licensing (Phone: 901-595-2342, Fax: 901-595-3148) for more information.


In the news