Kite Pharma Licences Teneobio’s Antibody Platform to Fight Multiple Myeloma
By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.
Today, Kite Pharma, a subsidiary of Gilead Sciences, announced that it has entered into license and collaboration agreement with Teneobio, a clinical-stage biotechnology company gaining exclusive rights to certain antibodies directed to B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA). Using Teneobio’s proprietary UniAb platform that develops diverse sets of human heavy chain-only antibodies, the two companies will develop antibodies directed to four additional targets to be used in CAR T cell therapies for multiple myeloma and other cancer types. Kite has agreed to make an upfront payment for the antibody license along with additional payments from time-to-time based on the fulfillment of certain clinical and regulatory milestones and royalties on future potential sales.
“Kite is committed to pursuing novel CAR T therapies that have the potential to be meaningfully differentiated treatment options for people living with multiple myeloma,” said Peter Emtage, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research at Kite. “Based on encouraging early clinical signals and unique attributes of the binding domain from Teneobio, this exciting collaboration will be central to our strategy of developing next-generation CAR T therapies with the potential to overcome the tumor microenvironment.”
Why Chase Heavy Chain Only Antibodies?
In 1993, a serendipitous discovery led to the identification of an unusual type of immunoglobulins in camelids and some forms of primitive fish that were just composed of heavy chains. These fully functional antibodies termed as a heavy chain only antibody (HCAbs) are particularly useful for targeting protein epitopes like narrow protein clefts and enzyme active sites because of their small size. Additionally, these antibodies have high specificity, high diversity and binding capacities comparable to conventional monoclonal antibodies. With this backdrop, scientists at Teneobio created a discovery platform to produce and characterize the repertoire of heavy chain only antibodies with fully human variable domains, termed UniAbs against the desired antigen using transgenic UniRats.
One of the products that came out of the platform is a bispecific antibody, TNB-383B developed in collaboration with AbbVie that selectively activates T-cell subsets while simultaneously targeting B-cell maturation antigen on malignant plasma cells. Currently, this is the first antibody that is undergoing Phase 1 clinical trial in a CAR T format for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma at the National Cancer Institute. With Tenebio’s BCMA antibody that Kite has made a deal for, there will be a ready-made antibody as good as monoclonal antibodies for the company to test in CAR T setting for multiple myeloma.
“We are pleased that Kite, a leader in cell therapy, has recognized the potential of Teneobio’s UniAb® platform to enable differentiated CAR T cell therapies in treating multiple myeloma and other cancers,” said Roland Buelow, Ph.D., CEO of Teneobio. “We look forward to working with Kite to advance our uniquely differentiated cancer-targeting UniAbs® on behalf of patients in need of novel therapies.”
Players to Watch
This collaboration is Gilead’s efforts to expand Kite’s CAR T treatments beyond lymphoma. But several other players are also looking in the same direction. Late last year, Janssen moved its anti-BCMA therapy (JNJ-68284528) to Phase 2 after it reported the elimination of tumors in 69% of patients with advanced multiple myeloma. GSK’s Belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916) is also currently under evaluation in multiple trials. These two along with Bluebird Bio and Celgene’s CAR T (bb2121) and Amgen’s bispecific T-cell engager (BITE) antibody AMG420 are anticipated to make up 35% of total multiple myeloma drug revenues in 2027 by GlobalData.
Weeks before Janssen reported positive results for its therapy, the FDA granted orphan drug status to CT053, an investigational CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma from CARsgen Therapeutics. Just this week, Bristol Myers Squibb also filed an NDA for its anti-BCMA CAR T cell therapy Idecabtagene Vicleucel for the same indication. With so much investment in anti-BCMA therapy, there is a big hope for multiple myeloma patients.
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