Amgen, Kite Pharma in latest partnership to create targeted cancer drugs using immune cells

IndustriesAssociated Press

Amgen Inc. and Kite Pharma Inc. will team up to develop advanced cancer treatments using key components of the immune system called T cells.

It's the latest partnership in the recent wave of pharmaceutical research that aims to harness the body's immune system to attack cancer.

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The two California companies said Monday that they'll combine their technology and expertise to bring to market medicines that can selectively target tumor cells, sparing healthy ones.

Amgen, the Thousand Oaks-based maker of injected osteoporosis drug Prolia, will use its knowledge of human genetics and immuno-oncology to select promising cancer targets for the collaboration.

Kite, based in Santa Monica, is to handle production of modified T cells for the experiments and handle all laboratory research, through the point when the companies apply for U.S. approval to begin tests on patients. Amgen is to cover all those expenses. Once human research is allowed, each company would cover expenses for testing its respective experimental drugs on patients.

Kite has proprietary technology that can take a patient's T cells and genetically modify them so they produce receptors on their surface that target cancer cells. Those engineered T cells include an antibody that enables them to travel directly to tumor sites, bind to a substance on the surface of the tumor cells, and wipe out those cells.

The deal calls for Kite to receive an upfront payment of $60 million from Amgen, the world's biggest biotech company by revenue. In addition, both companies could receive up to $525 million from the other company for each of its experimental drugs that gets approved and for achieving certain sales levels.

If one company gets a medicine approved, the other also would receive a small percentage of future sales.

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Follow Linda Johnson at https://twitter.com/lindaj_onpharma