Gilead's Kite makes off-the-shelf play with Shoreline Biosciences CAR-NK deal worth as much as $2.3B

Autologous CAR-T therapies like Kite’s Yescarta and Tecartus are made from a patient’s own cells, so they can be complex and time-consuming to manufacture. (Aaron Burden/Unsplash)

Gilead Sciences' Kite Pharma unit made its name developing autologous CAR-T treatments made from a patient’s own cells. Now, the subsidiary is making another big play in off-the-shelf treatments that can be developed more quickly in a deal with Shoreline Biosciences that could exceed $2.3 billion.

The partners will work on CAR targets for natural killer (NK) cell therapies for blood cancers, but Kite has the option to add a CAR-macrophage program to the deal, the companies said in a statement Thursday. Macrophages are a type of immune cell that detects, engulfs and destroys pathogens.

Under the deal, Shoreline picks up an undisclosed upfront payment and stands to receive more than $2.3 billion in additional payments if certain development and commercial goals are met. The partnership comes two months after Kite chipped into Shoreline’s $43 million series A.

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Autologous CAR-T therapies, like Kite’s Yescarta and Tecartus, are made from a patient’s own cells, so they can be complex and time-consuming to manufacture. Some patients with advanced cancer just don’t have that much time, while others may not have enough T cells or T cells of good enough quality to make those treatments. Shoreline’s solution is to make its NK-cell and macrophage treatments from induced pluripotent stem cells, a renewable source of genetically identical cells.

“As the leader in cell therapy, we are focused on investing in and delivering on the most promising opportunities to further optimize the therapeutic potential of cell therapy,” said Mert Aktar, vice president of corporate development and strategy at Kite, in the statement. “We are excited about the potential of Shoreline’s next-generation approach to allogeneic development, and how our collaboration can accelerate this research across different leukemias and lymphomas.”

And Kite isn’t the only company aiming at next-generation treatments.

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Allogene, an allogeneic cell therapy company set up by a pair of Kite alums, is working on treatments based on stem cells, too. The biotech started out developing off-the-shelf treatments based on mature T cells from donors and then teamed up with Notch Therapeutics on stem-cell based T-cell treatments for multiple myeloma, leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Companies such as Nkarta Therapeutics and Catamaran Bio are working on NK cell therapies to tackle several key shortcomings of autologous CAR-Ts, including their limited ability to reach solid tumors. Carisma Therapeutics is developing macrophage cell therapies to do the same.