In August, Gilead Sciences acquired Kite for $11.9bn (€10.1bn) and launched itself in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell. Since then, the firm received regulatory approval for its lead product Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) and is now expanding its capabilities in the CAR T space through the acquisition of Cell Design Labs.
Kite Pharma has worked with Cell Design Labs for almost 18 months and integrated its Throttle Switch technology into its CAR T-cell pipeline.
The platform is a precision control tool, enabling a physician to turn CAR T-cells on and off repeatedly, which the firm says allows them to be better tolerated and more effective.
“This is achieved by splitting a standard CAR-T molecule construct into two separate, and inactive, molecular components and cloning these into a patient’s T cell, resulting in the CAR-T cell existing in an ‘off’ state,” the firm said.
“Only in the presence of an FDA-approved small molecule drug will the two components come together – closing the ‘switch’ - into an active state, seeking out and eliminating cancer cells.”
The acquisition will also see Gilead add Cell Design Labs’ synNotch Receptors platform consisting of the reengineering of portions of the naturally occurring Notch receptor making it so a patient’s T cells can be instructed to detect new molecular targets and turn on new genes.
“Bringing our robust technology platforms under the Gilead umbrella, with its outstanding research and development capabilities and commitment to innovation, provides an exciting path forward for the development of the next generation of living therapies for patients with cancer,” said Brian Atwood, CEO of Cell Design Labs.
The structured buyout valued at as much as $567m, including the shares of Cell Design Labs held by Kite.