Kite Pharma ($KITE) has always been focused on engineering a patient’s own T cells to treat their cancer. But now, it’s in-licensed tech to create off-the-shelf T-cell therapies from renewable donor pluripotent stem cells.
The agreement is an exclusive worldwide license with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The technology is intended to replicate the human thymic environment to support the ex vivo differentiation of T cells from primary and reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells.
The in-licensed ATO system is expected to make the production of T cells sustainable and scalable by using pluripotent stem cell lines; it offers a platform to enable additional gene-engineering to develop these off-the-shelf allogeneic T-cell therapies.
Kite was previously focused on an autologous approach, which uses the patient’s own stem cells, rather than an allogeneic one based on the use of donor stem cells.
"This ATO system represents a significant breakthrough in stem cell biology that will drive our long-term strategy to develop best-in-class allogeneic T-cell therapies," said Kite VP of R&D and CMO Dr. David Chang in a statement.
He continued, "This platform provides a renewable source of T-cells and can be further exploited with gene engineering, including chimeric antigen receptors, T-cell receptors and other gene modifications of interest, to generate potent T-cell products that have the potential to be resistant to rejection and to bear no risk of graft-versus-host disease."
Low output of T cells and donor-to-donor variability have previously limited the engineering or commercial-scale manufacturing of T cells. But the ATO system is expected to improve upon that.
Under the deal, Kite gets exclusive use of the technology to develop T-cell products in oncology. The Santa Monica, CA-based company also agreed to support ongoing preclinical research by Dr. Crooks to continue to improve the ATO platform.
Kite had $575 million in cash at the end of the first quarter with a net loss of $43.9 million during that period.
- here is the release
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