Gilead, oNKo-innate Form Pact for Cancer Immunotherapies
Gilead Sciences, its subsidiary, Kite, and oNKo-innate, a Melbourne, Australia-based discovery-stage company for immuno-oncology drug development, have entered into a three-year cancer immunotherapy research collaboration to support discovery and development of drugs and engineered cell therapies focused on natural killer (NK) cells.
Under the agreement, oNKo-innate will use genomic screening techniques and its proprietary technology platform to discover immune cell targets an enhance NK cell anti-tumor immunity and to create NK cell therapies. oNKo-innate will execute screens to identify and validate targets to seed internal Gilead immuno-oncology discovery programs and will create and evaluate NK constructs for Kite’s development of 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. No financial amounts were disclosed.
The companies report that 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, or white blood cells, that play a surveillance and effector role in the immune system, according to information from the companies. NK cells and T cells each have the potential to address cancer cells, but have different mechanisms for tumor-cell killing. 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, according to the companies.