Athenex adds allogeneic assets in $70m Kuur Therapeutics deal

Athenex will leverage its manufacturing capabilities and staff to support the development of Kuur’s NKT cell therapies.

Biopharma firm dedicated to developing cancer treatments Athenex has acquired Kuur Therapeutics, a developer of engineered Natural Killer T (NKT) cell therapies used to treat haematological and solid malignancies.

Through the acquisition Kurr could receive up to $185 million, through a $70 million upfront payment from Athenex and $115 million in development milestones.

Image/iStock: Zhanna Hapanovich

According to Athenex, it is not just financial benefit that Kurr will receive.

“Kuur has three people on staff,” a spokesman for Athenex told BioProcess Insider. “The point of the transaction is to allow Kuur to leverage our workforce and capabilities in clinical, regulatory, and manufacturing to help further advance the assets they were developing.”

Athenex gains three cell therapy candidates from Kurr. These are, KUR-501 an autologous drug candidate that targets Neuroblastoma, KUR-502 an allogeneic therapy that treats hematological malignancies, and KUR-503 an allogeneic therapy targeting liver cancer.

While Athenex has an existing autologous program focusing on an immunotherapy candidate -TCRT-ESO-A2 aiming to treat multiple tumours – the company believes Kuur strengthens its efforts in cell therapy as an “allogeneic capability provides a scalable, consistent, and cost advantage over [an] autologous [approach].”

He continued: “The strategic goal has been to augment our cell therapy technology with allogeneic capabilities, acquiring Kuur gives us an allogeneic approach utilizing NKT cells which have low graft vs host risk. We believe NKT cells may provide a solid foundation to build a cell therapy platform.”

Athenex is constructing a 409,000 square-foot manufacturing plant in Dunkirk, New York, which it says is critical to minimizing possible disruptions associated with a high potency oncology supply chain.

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