Kite Pharma, Inc., has announced that it has further strengthened its TCR product platform and established a European presence through the acquisition of T-Cell Factory B.V. (TCF™), a privately held Dutch company, which has been renamed Kite Pharma EU. Founded by preeminent 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 Universität München (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.
Professor Schumacher will assume the role of Chief Scientific Officer of Kite Pharma EU, and maintain his position as Deputy Director of the NKI. Through this acquisition, Kite Pharma has obtained license agreements with IBA GmbH, Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation, and the NKI that include rights to certain new intellectual property in the TCR space developed by Professor 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 EU.
The acquisition of TCF follows the announcement earlier this month of Kite's expanded Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) 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-US 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 Chief Executive Officer. "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 René 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. We are excited about partnering with Kite and potential future R&D collaborations with the company. We will continue to support Professor Schumacher in his new role with Kite Pharma EU in addition to his ongoing relationship with NKI."
"T cell based gene therapy products will have a profound role in treating currently intractable diseases. We believe the combination of TCF's leading technology platform, the translational and development capabilities at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and Kite's expertise in advancing immune-oncology products, will rapidly bring important TCR-based gene therapies to patients," stated Professor Schumacher.
David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Kite Pharma's Executive Vice President, Research and Development, and Chief Medical Officer, commented, "In addition to expanding our capabilities in TCR, this acquisition is an important first step in our goal of global clinical expansion outside the US, applying our leadership and in-house clinical expertise in both CAR and TCR therapies. We are pleased with the accelerating momentum of our programs and look forward to additional clinical, operational, and manufacturing progress and accomplishments this year."
Financial terms of Kite's acquisition of TCF include an upfront payment of up to €20.0M (approximately $21.0M USD) to TCF shareholders, licensors and employees, of which €3.8M (approximately $4.0M USD) 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.