For cell and gene therapy companies developing allogeneic therapies, including allogeneic CAR-T or T-cell immunotherapies, getting high-quality starting material from healthy adult donors is critical to the success of their therapies. But, what is it like to be the allogeneic donors who get the call asking them to be volunteer donors? And why would they say yes? Leah jumped at the chance to be a donor for a Be The Match BioTherapies client. In her own words, she shares what it was like to get the call to donate starting material for an allogeneic cell therapy and what the experience meant to her.
“I remember the day I got the call like it was yesterday,” said Leah. “I was in the middle of a meeting at work and didn’t recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail. When I listened to the message on my train ride home that night, I couldn’t believe my ears.
“It was a message from the Be The Match BioTherapies Donor Services team, and they had an intriguing opportunity for me. I could be a donor for a Be The Match BioTherapies client that is developing an off-the-shelf allogeneic cell therapy.
“The call came as a big surprise to me. Even though I had joined the Be The Match Registry® and wanted to help a patient in need, I knew the chances were slim. I’m a white female in my mid-30s, and my HLA type is very common on the registry. So, this was a unique, exciting opportunity for me.”
Making the decision
“As excited as I was, there were a lot of things that went through my mind. ‘What am I going to have to do? What am I going to be putting my body through? Will I need to get injections?’ All of those thoughts came flooding in. I knew I would do it, and I jumped at the chance to help, but when you’re the person on the other end of that call, you do have a lot to think about.
“During the consent process, I learned that the company would most likely manufacture my cells into an off-the-shelf allogeneic immunotherapy in clinical trials. That therapy could treat not just one patient, but potentially many.
“To think that my cells could be developed into a therapy that would help many patients … it’s pretty amazing. Even if my cells were going to a lab for early-stage development, I would have been ok with it because I would be helping to further science.”
The donation process
“Being a donor is definitely a time investment. I had a doctor’s exam, tests to make sure my cells had the desired markers for the therapy that was being manufactured, and several blood draws. Be The Match BioTherapies flew me out to the apheresis site for my collection. My donation itself took about five hours.
“The support I received every step of the way was amazing. My workup specialist from Be The Match BioTherapies took really good care of me. She explained the whole process and continually checked in to make sure my blood draws went okay. She sent me a text the morning of my donation to tell me how proud she was of me. And she checked in with me after. I felt so supported.
“On donation day, I have to admit, I was pretty nervous. I don’t love needles, but the staff at the apheresis center helped me through my anxious times.
‘There but for fortune’
“The whole experience hit so close to home for me. As part of my job, I talk to patients every day who have had a blood stem cell transplant. Many do very well, but the reality is that there are many people who have complications after transplant. There are others who need alternative treatments to transplant. To know that I was helping to advance science to help more patients in need … it was humbling.
“There’s the saying, ‘There but for fortune.’ That’s what I felt. I was so fortunate that I was someone so healthy that my cells could help someone else. I got to provide hope and the possibility of a cure to people in need thanks to the opportunity from Be The Match BioTherapies and their clients.”
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