Appia partners with Kite to develop cell therapies for blood and bone cancers

Kite will develop CAR-iNKT cells  for the treatment of haematological malignancies using Appia Bio’s ACUA technology platform.

The deal, which could be worth up to $875 million, will see Appia responsible for preclinical research of two hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) derived chimeric antigen receptor-engineered invariant natural killer T (CAR-iNKT) product candidates manufactured with CARs provided by Kite.

“The core of the partnership is that we will bring together Appia’s cells and Kite’s CARs, putting us right at innovation’s edge.  We also believe that being in Los Angeles together and some of the people having worked together [already] is a plus,” Appia’s CEO JJ Kang told BioProcess Insider.

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Kite will use Appia’s ACUA platform to develop the CAR-iNKT cells and is responsible for the manufacturing and commercialization of the candidates established through the partnership.

The ACUA platform works by starting with “healthy donor stem cells and then driv[ing] their maturation to our CAR-iNKT cell product,” Kang said.

“The process is such that the cells expand robustly as they differentiate into iNKT cells and they self-select into a homogeneous cell product with the genetically engineered components, such as the CAR. The iNKT cell is a naturally occurring but rare type, with aspects that are a hybrid between T cells and NK cells.”

Appia will transfer the product to Kite for manufacturing as “our platform cells expand so much, the necessary GMP footprint is actually quite reasonable on a per dose bases,” said Kang.

Kang did not provide any specifics on site or staff scale-up to service the deal. However, he did tell this publication that Appia “has been growing and expanding, both with the deal and for our own pipeline programs. We continue to hire across R&D and G&A, the best part of a start up, I think, is being part of a tight knit team.”

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