Kite Pharma will partner with Alpine Immune Sciences (AIS) to discover and develop protein-based cancer immunotherapies using AIS’ transmembrane immunomodulatory protein (TIP™) technology, the companies said today. The deal could generate up to $535 million-plus for AIS.

AIS has granted Kite an exclusive license to two TIP programs, which Kite plans to engineer into chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T cell receptor (TCR) product candidates. Kite said the collaboration will speed up its efforts to establish next-generation engineered T cell therapies specifically designed to overcome inhibitory mechanisms within the tumor microenvironment.

“We believe the ability of AIS' TIP technology to modulate the immune synapse can be incorporated into engineered T cell therapies to advance CAR and TCR product candidates into multiple tumor types,” Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, Kite’s chairman, president, and CEO, said in a statement.

Kite has agreed to pay AIS $5 million upfront, plus additional payments to support AIS' research. AIS will be eligible for up to $530 million in milestone payments tied to achieving pre-specified research, clinical, and regulatory milestones, plus low single-digit royalty payments on product sales.

In return, Kite will receive an exclusive, worldwide license to research, develop and commercialize engineered autologous T cell therapies incorporating two programs coming from the AIS platform.

AIS’ TIP technology is based on the company’s variant immunoglobulin domain (vIgD™) platform, which is designed to enhance or diminish an immune response by interacting with multiple targets in the immune synapse. TIP has been developed for direct applications with engineered T cell therapies to potentially improve their efficacy and persistence.

Headquartered in Seattle, AIS was launched earlier this year with $1 million in seed financing from Alpine BioVentures, a Seattle-based healthcare venture capital firm. AIS Executive Chairman Mitchell H. Gold, M.D., is a managing partner in Alpine BioVentures, as is Jay Venkatesan, M.D., AIS’ CEO and director. Dr. Gold is a former CEO of Dendreon, which was acquired by Valeant Pharmaceutical International in February at auction for $495 million.

Kite focuses on developing cancer immunotherapies through its engineered autologous cell therapy (eACT™) platform, designed to restore the immune system's ability to recognize and eradicate tumors.