Adaptimmune Therapeutics said today it will partner with Universal Cells to develop allogeneic T-cell cancer therapies, in a collaboration that could generate up to $46.5 million plus for Universal Cells.

The collaboration is designed to combine Universal Cells’ gene-editing platform technology for generating universal donor cells with Adaptimmune’s expertise in T-cell receptor (TCR) engineering to create affinity enhanced donor T-cells that are universally applicable.

The enhanced T-cell technology involves selective engineering of cell surface proteins—namely TCRs and class I and class II HLA proteins—without the use of nucleases. Adaptimmune and Universal Cells plan to develop allogeneic affinity-enhanced T-cell therapeutics, with the goal of treating large patient populations.

“This collaboration marks another step towards our goal of providing innovative immunotherapeutics to patients suffering from cancer,” Adaptimmune COO Helen Tayton-Martin, Ph.D., said in a statement,

Under the companies’ exclusive agreement, Universal Cells agreed to grant Adaptimmune an exclusive, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use, sell, supply, manufacture, import, and develop products and services using Universal Cells’ technology within the field of T-cell immunotherapy.

In return, Adaptimmune agreed to pay Universal Cells a $5.5 million upfront license and start-up fee. Universal Cells is also eligible for up to $41 million in payments tied to achieving development and product milestones. Universal Cells would also receive a profit-share payment for the first product, and royalties on sales of other products using its technology.

“We are poised to develop a scalable, safe, and efficacious product with the potential to revolutionize cancer immunotherapy,” added Universal Cells CEO Claudia Mitchell.

Based in Seattle, privately held Universal Cells specializes in developing nuclease-free genome-editing technologies intended to allow efficient and accurate editing of any gene without off-target effects. The company is using its platform to create rejection-free, off-the-shelf cell therapies that can be administered to any patient without immunosuppressive drugs.

Adaptimmune, based in Philadelphia and Oxford, U.K., focuses on developing cancer immunotherapy products based on its TCR platform. Adaptimmune’s lead program is an affinity enhanced T-cell therapy targeting the NY-ESO cancer antigen that has shown signs of efficacy and tolerability in Phase I/II trials in solid tumors and in hematologic cancer types, including synovial sarcoma and multiple myeloma.

Last year, Adaptimmune and GlaxoSmithKline agreed to co-develop the therapy through a partnership that could yield for Adaptimmune more than $350 million over the next seven years.

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