Amgen has found a CAR-T development partner. The Big Biotech is partnering up with Kite Pharma on new drugs that use Kite's chimeric antigen receptor tech, which turns T cells in the immune system into cancer-cell attack weapons. And they're both putting up some major milestone cash to fuel the work.
In this deal Amgen ($AMGN) is paying $60 million upfront and covering early-stage development costs at Kite ($KITE), which in turn will go after a number of Amgen's cancer targets using the Big Biotech's immuno-oncology tech and targets. Once past the initial IND stage, each of the companies will be responsible for the drug candidates that they select from the deal--with Amgen adding up to $525 million in milestones for each successful program and Kite doing the same for Amgen.
Late last year Kite rival Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) saw its IPO take off in one of the hottest new offerings of 2014 as investors proved keen to gamble on the prospects of a new technology that has shown tremendous potential in early cancer studies. CAR-T is related to new immuno-oncology technology that promises to unleash the human immune system in a coordinated attack on cancer. And pioneers in the field are already planning a quick march to the FDA with their initial applications.
Amgen has focused heavily on new cancer therapies, with a spotlight on the late-stage development of its cancer vaccine T-Vec, which has had mixed results in the clinic. Amgen and Merck ($MRK) recently launched a study combining the immunotherapy with Merck's PD-1-blocking Keytruda, which was approved last year for melanoma and is currently in a slate of IO studies both as a solo treatment and combo drug. Amgen also recently snagged an approval for Blincyto (blinatumomab), an antibody developed through the bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) system which is designed to direct immune cells to attack cancer.
Kite shares jumped 4% this morning while Amgen stock was down about 2%.
"The intersection of immunology and oncology represents one of the most promising approaches to delivering significant impact for patients with cancer," said Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of R&D at Amgen. "With our existing immuno-oncology portfolio of cutting-edge technologies and expertise, we believe joining forces with Kite Pharma will leverage our targets and their leading CAR T cell platform to advance another new promising therapeutic approach to fight cancer."
- here's the release