Kite Pharma said today it has licensed technology from the University of California (UC) designed to advance the development of off-the-shelf allogeneic T-cell therapies from renewable pluripotent stem cells.

The value of the exclusive worldwide license agreement was not disclosed.

UC acted on behalf of UCLA in licensing the technology to Kite. This technology is based on research led by Gay M. Crooks, M.D., 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.

Dr. Crooks has developed and refined an artificial thymic organoid (ATO) cell culture system designed to replicate the human thymic environment  to support efficient ex vivo differentiation of T cells from primary and reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells.

According to Kite, the ATO system potentially supports efficient and scalable production of T cells using pluripotent stem cell lines capable of indefinite self-renewal. By contrast, 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.

By facilitating 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, Kite reasons.

“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,” David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Kite’s evp, R&D, and CMO, said in a statement.

Under its agreement with UC, Kite will receive exclusive rights to use the licensed technology to develop and commercialize T-cell products in oncology. Kite has also inked a Sponsored Research Agreement with UCLA to support ongoing preclinical research in Dr. Crooks’ laboratory to optimize the ATO platform.

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