2021-08-06| R&D

Kite to Invest in Next Generation Immunotherapy with Appia Bio Collaboration

by Daniel Ojeda
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Kite, a Gilead company, has found great success with its chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies, Yescarta and Tercartus. Together they produced over $600 million in sales for Gilead in 2020. These therapies are FDA approved for several hematological malignancies including Large B-Cell lymphoma, Follicular Lymphoma, and Mantle Cell Lymphoma.

Kite and Gilead have been leaders in the field of cell therapy products. However, three more CAR T-cell therapies have been approved, and the field is becoming crowded. For this reason, Kite has been investing heavily in partnerships to develop CAR Natural Killer cell therapies. Their latest collaboration valued at up to $875 million is with Appia Bio.


Towards Building Off-the-Shelf Allogeneic Cell Therapies

Founded in 2020 and based in Los Angeles, Appia Bio is a biotechnology company that aims to develop allogeneic cell therapies. Current cell therapies modify the patient’s own cells to create the therapy. Appia Bio aims to change this by utilizing its proprietary ACUA technology platform. They use hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to develop invariant natural killer cell therapies that are modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CAR), and T-cell receptors (TCR). During their series A financing they raised $52 million, which will be used to progress their pipeline.

Under the terms of the agreement, Appia Bio will be responsible for the preclinical development of 2 CAR-NK candidates. The therapeutic candidates will combine Kite’s proprietary CARs and Appio’s HSC NK-cells. Kite will be responsible for the development, manufacturing, and commercialization of products. 

The deal includes an undisclosed amount for an upfront payment, an equity investment, and milestone payments with a combined value of up to $875 million as well as royalties on the products. 

“We are thrilled to partner with a leader in cell therapy such as Kite, who shares our vision for the potential of iNKT cells in off-the-shelf allogeneic cell therapy,” said JJ Kang, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Appia Bio. “Our partnership with Kite is an important step toward establishing the broad pipeline potential of our ACUA platform and bringing new treatment options to patients.”

“As a pioneer in cell therapy, Kite is deeply committed to developing the next generation of cell therapies to treat and potentially cure cancer patients,” said Mert Aktar, Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy at Kite. “Through our collaboration with Appia Bio, we’re excited to harness unique biological properties of invariant natural killer T cells to research and develop allogeneic cell therapies for cancer.”

This is the second deal Kite sings within a month to develop CAR NK cell-based therapies. Back in June, Kite announced a deal with Shoreline Biosciences worth up to $2.3 billion. The deal aims to develop NK and macrophage-based cellular therapies and shows Kite’s commitment to cellular therapy. This is a key moment for CAR NK-based therapies as most clinical trials are still investigator-sponsored and early clinical trials.

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