Kite Pharma, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing engineered autologous T cell therapy (eACT) products based on CAR and TCR gene therapy platforms for the treatment of cancer, acquired T-Cell Factory (TCF), a privately held Dutch company, which has been renamed Kite Pharma E.U.
Founded by scientists including Professor Dr. Ton N. M. Schumacher, Ph.D., of the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and Professor Dr. Dirk H. Busch, M.D., of the Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM), TCF has the ability to discover and develop tumor-specific TCRs for broad application in cancer treatment based on its proprietary TCR-GENErator platform. Schumacher will assume the role of chief scientific officer of Kite Pharma E.U., and maintain his position as deputy director of the NKI.
Kite Pharma has obtained license agreements with IBA, Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation and the NKI that include rights to certain new intellectual property in the TCR space developed by Schumacher at the NKI. In addition, the acquisition provides access to European clinical manufacturing facilities, launching a base for Kite to build its global presence and initiate clinical programs in the E.U.
The acquisition of TCF follows the announcement of Kite's expanded Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the National Cancer Institute to develop new TCR candidates, including against tumor neo-antigens, truly tumor-specific antigens generated as tumors accumulate genetic mutations. TCRs broaden the approach to cancer treatment by allowing targeting of tumor antigens found inside cancer cells, as well as surface antigens.
"The acquisition of TCF and its novel discovery and development platform provides Kite with a strong position in TCR gene therapy for cancer. In addition, with our strategic plans for expanding clinical operations to ex-U.S. sites, Kite's relationship with NKI, an internationally renowned research and clinical institution, provides an important operational platform and potential access to investigators, clinical sites and manufacturing facilities in Amsterdam," said Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, Kite's president and CEO. "Kite plans to leverage its access to intellectual property, know-how and a network of collaborators across the continent to build a robust pipeline of TCR gene therapies."
"Through the tight link between our research institute and dedicated cancer hospital, we are in a unique position to discover, develop and manufacture cellular gene therapies for cancer," said professor Rene Medema, director of NKI. "NKI's goal is to become the leader in T cell gene therapy in Europe, and we are expanding our clinical and manufacturing capacities.”
David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Kite Pharma's executive vice president, R&D, and chief medical officer, said, "In addition to expanding our capabilities in TCR, this acquisition is an important first step in our goal of global clinical expansion outside the U.S., applying our leadership and in-house clinical expertise in both CAR and TCR therapies.”
Financial terms of Kite's acquisition of TCF include an upfront payment of up to approximately $21 million to TCF shareholders, licensors and employees, of which approximately $4 will be paid in Kite stock. Kite is obligated to make certain milestone payments upon the achievement of clinical, regulatory and sales milestones relating to TCR-based product candidates.