Kite Pharma, Inc. has announced that it has entered into an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), for technology to advance the development of off-the-shelf allogeneic T-cell therapies from renewable pluripotent stem cells. The technology is based on research led by Gay M. Crooks, M.D., who has developed and refined an artificial thymic organoid (ATO) cell culture system that replicates the human thymic environment to support efficient ex vivo differentiation of T-cells from primary and reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells.
Dr. Crooks is the Rebecca Smith Professor in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She is also a Co-director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and Director of the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types, including T-cells.
T-cell development is complex, and attempts to generate T-cells with in vitro cell culture systems have been limited by low output of T-cells and donor-to-donor variability that cannot support further engineering or commercial-scale manufacturing. In contrast, the ATO system potentially supports efficient and scalable production of T-cells using pluripotent stem cell lines capable of indefinite self-renewal. With reproducible and consistent production of T-cells, the ATO system presents an attractive platform to facilitate additional gene-engineering steps to develop off-the-shelf allogeneic T-cell therapies.
"This ATO system represents a significant breakthrough in stem cell biology that will drive our long-term strategy to develop best-in-class allogeneic T-cell therapies," said David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Kite's Executive Vice President, Research and Development, and Chief Medical Officer. "This platform provides a renewable source of T-cells and can be further exploited with gene engineering, including chimeric antigen receptors, T-cell receptors and other gene modifications of interest, to generate potent T-cell products that have the potential to be resistant to rejection and to bear no risk of graft-versus-host disease."
Under the terms of this agreement, Kite will receive exclusive rights to use the licensed technology to develop and commercialize T-cell products in oncology. In connection with the license agreement, Kite has entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement with UCLA to support ongoing preclinical research in Dr. Crooks' laboratory to optimize the ATO platform.