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2022-10-21| Licensing

Kite to Use Refuge’s Gene Expression Platform for New CAR-T Therapies

by Reed Slater
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CAR-T Cell therapy superstar Kite entered a global licensing agreement with Refuge Biotechnologies Inc. to leverage Refuge’s proprietary gene expression platform to develop new CAR-T therapies targeting blood cancer. Kite, a Gilead company, will take the reins, covering all research, development, manufacturing, and commercialization costs.

Building on a Successful CAR-T Platform

Kite developed and commercialized two of the five CAR-T cell therapies currently on the market, making them one of the most influential companies in the space. The agreement with Refuge could bring another layer of complexity and value to Kite’s portfolio. 

Refuge’s gene expression platform leverages synthetic biology and uses an expression modulation strategy to repress or activate the transcription of gene targets. According to Kite’s press release, the modular platform shows the potential to improve the safety and efficacy rates of CAR-T therapies. 

Francesco Marincola, MD, Global Head of Cell Therapy Research at Kite, said, “Through this exclusive license agreement with Refuge’s platform, coupled with our unique in-house research capabilities, we aim to create a new generation of CAR T-cell products to induce long-term remissions for more patients.”

Related Article: Synthetic Biology: A Rising Interdisciplinary Field that Revolutionizes the Biomedical Industry

Piecing Together the Terms of the Deal

So far, Kite’s approved CAR-T cell therapies only target blood cancer, and the agreement with Refuge would keep them on that path. As part of the deal, Kite would receive the exclusive license to Refuge’s intellectual property portfolio for use in blood cancers. Refuge will retain the rights for any programs related to solid tumor indications. 

Keeping potential solid tumor indications is right up Refuge’s alley, though, because it has two CAR-T candidates in its pipeline seemingly bound for the clinic. According to Refuge’s pipeline, two CAR-T therapies targeting HER2 are in late-preclinical development. 

Chief Business Officer at Refuge, Jing Zhao, said, “As a leader in the advancement of cell therapy from research to life-changing therapeutics, Kite is an ideal partner for Refuge as we seek to further evaluate the promise of Refuge’s proprietary platform. We look forward to collaborating closely with Kite in this area, while continuing to advance our internal therapeutic research and programs focused on solid tumors.”

Kite will pay Refuge an undisclosed amount of cash upfront as part of the deal. Other benefits may include future performance-based regulatory milestone payments, which are also undisclosed. 

The license agreement between Kite and Refuge is exciting for CAR-T cell’s future. Kite, which has valuable experience in blood cancer-targeting CAR-T cell therapies, could use Refuge’s gene expression platform to create a new generation of CAR-T cell therapies that are safer and more effective than previous iterations.

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