Gilead Sciences and its subsidiary Kite have joined forces with oNKo-innate to discover and develop cancer immunotherapies focused on natural killer (NK) cells.
In this regard, Gilead Sciences and Kite have signed a three-year research collaboration agreement with oNKo-innate on cancer immunotherapies with an objective to support the discovery and development of next-generation drug and engineered cell therapies.
ONKo-innate, through the research collaboration, will leverage genome-wide screening techniques and its technology platform to discover novel immune cell targets that improve anti-tumor immunity of NK cells and for creating NK cell therapies.
The discovery-stage biotechnology company will execute screens for Gilead Sciences for identifying and validating targets to seed internal immuno-oncology discovery programmes of the latter.
On the other hand, for Kite, oNKo-innate will create and assess NK constructs for the former’s development of next-generation cell therapies.
ONKo-innate co-founder and CEO Jai Rautela said: “With more than 20 years of collective academic expertise in NK cell biology, we have long believed in the potential for NK cells to play a role in cancer immunotherapy.
“We look forward to bringing this NK cell expertise and our unique screening techniques into a collaboration with Gilead and Kite to serve a common goal of discovering new treatments for patients.”
As per the partners, the present cancer immunotherapy approaches focus mainly on T cell mediated anti-tumor immunity. Such approaches include checkpoint inhibition and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy.
The partners said that NK cells, like T cells, are a class of lymphocytes that have an important surveillance and effector role in the immune system. Both NK cells and T cells can potentially attack cancer cells, however, with different mechanisms for killing tumour cells, said the pharma companies.
The three partners believe that NK cells when appropriately activated and targeted could represent a differentiated approach that will be possibly complementary and synergistic with T cell mediated anti-tumor strategies.
As per the agreement terms, oNKo-innate will get an upfront payment and will be eligible for additional payments depending on meeting certain clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. The company will also get payments in the form of potential sales royalties across the immuno-oncology and cell therapy programmes resulting from the collaboration.
Gilead Sciences research executive vice president William Lee said: “Gilead is pleased to partner with oNKo-innate as a leader in this new and highly promising area of cancer immunotherapy.
“We have a strategic focus of growing both our expertise and pipeline in immuno-oncology and we believe this exciting collaboration will support each of these objectives as we work to discover and develop novel cancer therapies for patients.”