Kite Pharma and bluebird bio said today they will partner to co-develop and co-commercialize second generation T-cell receptor (TCR) product candidates directed against the human papillomavirus type 16 E6 (HPV-16 E6) oncoprotein. The value of the cancer immunotherapy collaboration was not disclosed.

The companies did say, however, that they will incorporate gene editing to efficiently modify certain genes to enhance T cell function, as well as explore using lentiviral vectors to optimize delivery of HPV-16 E6 TCRs into patient T cells.

The strategic collaboration is intended to combine bluebird bio’s platform consisting of lentiviral gene delivery and gene-editing capabilities, focused on rare diseases and cancer immunotherapies, with Kite’s pipeline of TCR product candidates.

Kite will lead the collaboration in the United States, and bluebird bio will have the option to lead the program in the European Union, the companies said. Additionally, Kite will have a co-promotion option in the European Union, and bluebird will have a co-promotion option in the United States.

Both companies said they will share overall costs, including R&D and sales and marketing expenses. Profits will be equally split between the companies.

Kite said the collaboration will not affect its existing and wholly owned TCR programs directed against high-risk HPV, which the company said it will continue to develop. Those programs include HPV-16 E6 TCR, now in a Phase I study (NCT02280811), and the preclinical HPV-16 E7 TCR.

Furthest along among Kite’s TCR programs is NY-ESO-1 TCR, which as of June 2 was recruiting patients for a Phase II trial (NCT01967823) against various metastatic cancers other than melanoma that express ESO antigen.

“This partnership is a natural fit with our mission to develop and deliver novel immunotherapies for cancer patients, and collaborating globally with bluebird bio will allow us to benefit from the strengths and capabilities of both companies in immuno-oncology,” Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, Kite's chairman, president, and CEO, said in a statement.








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