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Kite Pharma Licenses Refuge Biotechnologies Platform to Bolster CAR T-Cell Therapy Development

NEW YORK – Gilead Sciences subsidiary Kite Pharma said on Thursday that it has in-licensed Refuge Biotechnologies' gene expression platform for developing new blood cancer treatments including CAR T-cell therapies. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Kite will hold exclusive rights to Refuge's platform for use in blood cancer treatment indications and gain access to a library of synthetic gene expression programs. Refuge, meanwhile, will retain its rights to use its platform for solid cancer indications.

Refuge's platform uses a synthetic biology system to modulate expression of target genes, repressing or activating them to aid in drug development. According to early preclinical studies, the platform can regulate target antigen-dependent gene expression to improve CAR T-cell therapy safety and efficacy.

In the latest deal, Kite will make an undisclosed upfront payment to Refuge covering all R&D, manufacturing, and commercialization costs. Refuge is also eligible to receive payments for meeting regulatory milestones.

"Through this exclusive license agreement with Refuge's platform, coupled with our unique in-house research capabilities, we aim to create a new generation of CAR T-cell products to induce long-term remissions for more patients," Francesco Marincola, the global head of cell therapy research at Kite, said in a statement.

In May 2021, MD Anderson Cancer Center bought the rights to use Refuge's platform to develop tumor infiltrating lymphocyte therapies.