Gilead's Kite taps Teneobio to build next-gen CAR-Ts for multiple myeloma

Although front-line treatments for multiple myeloma work well for most patients, many of them eventually relapse, running out of drugs to treat their cancer. Gilead Sciences’ Kite Pharma is working on new CAR-T therapies for these patients—and it’s enlisted Teneobio’s antibody technology to do so.

Under the deal, Kite is licensing a suite of antibodies from Teneobio that target BCMA, including one currently in a phase 1 study for multiple myeloma at the National Cancer Institute. The pair will also use Teneobio’s Human Heavy-Chain Antibodies (UniAb) platform to discover antibodies for up to four more targets to be used in CAR-T treatments for multiple myeloma. It’s part of a strategy to translate the response rates Kite has seen with Yescarta in blood cancers that express CD19—such as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma—to patients with multiple myeloma, Peter Emtage, Ph.D., Kite’s senior vice president of research, told FierceBiotech.

Unlike a common antibody that is made up of two heavy chains and two light chains, a heavy chain antibody, as its name suggests, is composed of only the heavy chains, making it smaller in size. And with a smaller antibody piece, Kite could potentially fit multiple CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) into the viral vectors it uses to modify T cells to attack cancer.

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The advantage of that approach? It could allow the development of CARs that target more than one antigen, potentially cutting down on relapse rates. Studies have shown patients with blood cancer can relapse on CAR-T therapy because some cancer cells do not carry the antigen the CAR-T is looking for. Adding a second target could solve this problem.

“We have limited payload in lentiviral or retroviral platforms,” Emtage said. “So the ability to put smaller CARs means we will be able to marry those in the future—as we develop our multiple myeloma strategy—with other modulators, say, of the tumor microenvironment, or other enhancements of T-cell activity.

“We have a strategy that will look at various CARs and dual-targeting CARs as a way of creating an environment for Kite where we could push forward a best-in-class strategy compared to current therapies from a cell therapy perspective in multiple myeloma,” he continued.

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Kite will file an IND based on the data the National Cancer Institute is generating from its anti-BCMA CAR study, Emtage added. Kite and Teneobio will also work to identify “a number of potential binders to a few different targets,” but Emtage didn’t specify which targets they’re interested in.

Kite isn’t the only player working on CAR-T treatments for multiple myeloma. Just this week, Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio submitted their candidate, called bb2121 or idecabtagene vicleucel (ide-cel), for FDA approval. And Johnson & Johnson’s multiple myeloma CAR-T shrank tumors in all 29 of the patients in a small trial presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in December. Both target BCMA.