Kite Pharma and Cell Design Labs said today they will partner to develop next-generation, precision-controlled chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy candidates using Cell Design Labs’ molecular “on/off switch” technology.

The collaboration could generate up to $67.5 million for Cell Design Labs, in addition to a $6 million equity investment that Kite Pharma has agreed to make in its partner, 6 months after investing $1 million in the company.

Cell Design Labs has agreed to develop “on/off switches” for Kite’s CAR T-cell pipeline. In return, Kite will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize CAR T-cell therapies containing Cell Design Labs’ switches directed to certain targets for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The collaboration also gives Kite the exclusive option to develop and commercialize CAR T-cell products containing “on/off switches” directed to certain targets for the treatment of B-cell malignancies.

Cell Design Labs’ switch technology uses small molecule–mediated protein dimerization domains to  activate the CAR functionally and deactivate the CAR in the absence of the small molecule. By incorporating “on/off switches” into next-generation CAR products, the companies reason, physicians could rapidly control and reversibly titrate the activity of CAR T-cells.

“Cell Design Labs has developed an elegant approach to designing CARs,” Kite Chairman, President, and CEO Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Cell Design Labs exemplifies Kite’s commitment to bringing the next-generation CAR T-cell immunotherapies to patients.”

Dr. Belldegrun will join the Board of Directors of Cell Design Labs, and David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., evp, R&D, and CMO of Kite, will join as a board observer.

According to a regulatory filing, Kite has agreed to pay Cell Design Labs $2 million upfront and up to an additional $9 million to support Cell Design Labs’ research. Kite also agreed to pay Cell Design Labs up to $56.5 million in payments tied to the successful completion of research, clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones.

Cell Design Labs will also be eligible to receive tiered single-digit royalties for sales on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis, until the date on which the licensed product is no longer covered by specified intellectual property rights, Kite added.

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