Gilead’s Kite Pharma has tied down a licensing deal for Refuge Biotechnologies’ gene expression platform in hopes of developing new blood cancer treatments and plans to take flight with a new generation of CAR-Ts.
Through the exclusive global licensing agreement, the California biotechs aim to create new CAR-T products to induce long-term remissions for more patients, Kite’s head of cell therapy research Francesco Marincola, M.D., said in an Oct. 20 release.
Kite, a biotech Gilead acquired for $11.9 billion in 2017, holds FDA approvals for two CAR-T products—nearly half of the five currently greenlighted therapies. All of the agency’s nods have been for blood cancers, and getting a cell therapy to market for solid tumors has so far remained out of reach.
Under the terms of the new deal, Kite will cover all costs and activities related to R&D, manufacturing and commercialization. Kite will also pay out an undisclosed cash fee to Refuge and give the biotech the chance to obtain performance-based milestone payments.
In return, Kite will hold an exclusive license to Refuge’s library of synthetic gene expression programs for blood cancer indications. Refuge, an early-stage biotech developing “intelligent cell therapeutics” for cancer immunotherapy, uses an expression modulation strategy to switch specific genes on and off and control a gene’s cell expression. In 2018, the company closed its most recent funding round, a $25 million series B.
Meanwhile, Refuge will retain the rights to any potential solid tumor therapy programs.