- Kite Pharma, a leading company in the CAR-T space, has inked a deal with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to license technology aimed at developing "off-the-shelf" allogeneic T-cell therapies, the company said Monday.
- The technology in question stems from research conducted by Dr. Gay Crooks at UCLA into a type of artificial cell culture system which can support ex vivo differentiation of T-cells from pluripotent stem cells.
- Kite, along with Juno Therapeutics, Novartis and others, has focused primarily on developing autologous CAR-T therapies, in which T-cells are extracted from a patient before being genetically engineered and then reintroduced to the body. An allogeneic approach, pioneered by the French company Cellectis, promises greater reach for any future therapy.
Since Kite Pharma first presented data on its primary candidate KTE-C19, an autologous T-cell therapy which targets the CD19 antigen, the company has racked up a number of orphan drug designations from the Food and Drug Administration. Kite is currently aiming to submit KTE-C19 for approval in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma next year.
While autologous CAR-T has shown promising efficacy in blood cancer clinical trials, there a number of pressing challenges to development and potential commercial use. Given the nature of extracting, engineering, and reintroducing a patient's T-cells, the therapy is complex from a manufacturing standpoint. That complexity could weigh on widespread use of any future commercial product, not to mention the likely high price tag.
An allogeneic approach, if successful, would allow a company to create "off-the-shelf" T-cell therapies, which could potentially be used by a wider group of patients. Kite's deal with UCLA is aimed at exploring that approach.
Dr. Crooks has developed a "artificial thymic organoid" cell culture system which replicates the human thymic environment. Using this system, Kite could potentially more efficiently produce T-cells from pluripotent stem cell lines, lowering the barrier to development of an allogeneic T-cell therapy.
"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 David Chang, chief medical offier at Kite.
"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."
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Kite has exclusive global rights to develop the technology for T-cell products in oncology.