FOSTER CITY, Calif. & SANTA MONICA, Calif. & MELBOURNE, Australia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD), Kite, a Gilead Company, and oNKo-innate announced the companies have entered into a three-year cancer immunotherapy research collaboration to support discovery and development of next-generation drug and engineered cell therapies focused on natural killer (NK) cells.
Current cancer immunotherapy approaches primarily focus on T cell mediated anti-tumor immunity, including checkpoint inhibition and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. Like T cells, NK cells are a class of lymphocytes (white blood cells) that play a critical surveillance and effector role in the immune system. NK cells and T cells each have the potential to attack cancer cells, but have different mechanisms for tumor cell killing. Thus, appropriately activated and targeted NK cells may represent a differentiated approach that would be potentially complementary and synergistic with T cell mediated anti-tumor strategies.
“Gilead is pleased to partner with oNKo-innate as a leader in this new and highly promising area of cancer immunotherapy,” said William A. Lee, PhD, Executive Vice President, Research, Gilead Sciences. “We have a strategic focus of growing both our expertise and pipeline in immuno-oncology and we believe this exciting collaboration will support each of these objectives as we work to discover and develop novel cancer therapies for patients.”
“Kite is committed to building upon our leadership in cell therapy as we seek to meet the needs of patients with cancer,” said Peter Emtage, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research at Kite. “Early clinical data utilizing adoptively transferred NK cells has been encouraging and we are excited by the opportunity to scientifically expand our capabilities in this area and to identify novel NK cell therapies to advance toward clinical development.”
“With more than 20 years of collective academic expertise in NK cell biology, we have long believed in the potential for NK cells to play a role in cancer immunotherapy,” said Jai Rautela, PhD, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of oNKo-innate. “We look forward to bringing this NK cell expertise and our unique screening techniques into a collaboration with Gilead and Kite to serve a common goal of discovering new treatments for patients.”
Through this research collaboration, oNKo-innate will use genome-wide screening techniques and its proprietary technology platform to discover novel immune cell targets that enhance NK cell anti-tumor immunity and to create NK cell therapies. For Gilead, oNKo-innate will execute screens to identify and validate targets to seed internal Gilead immuno-oncology discovery programs. For Kite, oNKo-innate will create and evaluate NK constructs for Kite’s development of next-generation cell therapies.
Under the terms of the agreement, oNKo-innate will receive an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive additional payments based on achievement of certain clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, as well as sales royalties across the immuno-oncology and cell therapy programs.
oNKo-innate is a discovery-stage biotechnology company dedicated to target identification and pre-clinical immuno-oncology drug development. With our deep understanding of NK cells, we aim to be the first to truly therapeutically harness the cancer-fighting abilities of these remarkable white blood cells. For more information on oNKo-innate, visit www.onko-innate.com.
Kite, a Gilead Company, is a biopharmaceutical company based in Santa Monica, California. Kite is engaged in the development of innovative cancer immunotherapies. The company is focused on chimeric antigen receptor and T cell receptor engineered cell therapies. For more information on Kite, please visit www.kitepharma.com.
About Gilead Sciences
Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. The company strives to transform and simplify care for people with life-threatening illnesses around the world. Gilead has operations in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California. For more information on Gilead Sciences, please visit the company’s website at www.gilead.com.
Gilead and Kite Forward-Looking Statements
This press release includes forward-looking statements, within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, including the risk that Gilead and Kite may not realize the potential benefits of this collaboration with oNKo-innate or other investments in immuno-oncology or cell therapies. All statements other than statements of historical fact are statements that could be deemed forward-looking statements. These risks, uncertainties and other factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those referred to in the forward-looking statements. The reader is cautioned not to rely on these forward-looking statements. These and other risks are described in detail in Gilead’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, as filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements are based on information currently available to Gilead and Kite, and Gilead and Kite assume no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements.