Gilead unit to buy Carl June-founded Penn cell therapy spinout
The Philadelphia cell therapy developer suffered a major setback last year when two patients died in a clinical trial testing the company's prostate cancer cell therapy.
Kite Pharma, a California-based subsidiary owned by Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ GILD), announced Tuesday that it had signed an agreement to acquire Tmunity. Tmunity stopped clinical testing of its cell therapy candidate for prostate cancer last year after two deaths in the study. The Kite deal, which includes Tmunity’s technology platform, pipeline assets, and research and licensing agreements with the University of Pennsylvania, is confidential. The terms of the agreement stipulate that Kite will take over responsibility for the continuation of research and development cooperation between Penn and Tmunity. The research and licensing agreement with Penn is being extended through 2026. There will also be an option to extend the contract further, once the sale is complete. "Kite has shown an ability to global scale cell therapy and address unique challenges and opportunities that cells therapy represents, which are quite distinct in material ways from traditional pharmaceutical or biotech methods," June, Penn's Center for Cellular Immunotherapies director, said in a statement. Therapy using CAR-T cells involves the removal of T cells from patients and their genetic modification in the laboratory. The T cells become more effective in attacking and eliminating tumors after they are reinjected. T cells are a type immune system cell. CAR stands for chimeric-antigen receptor. Penn is an investor in Tmunity. He also holds an undisclosed equity stake in the company. Other major investors in Tmunity are Westlake Village Biopartners and Andreessen Horowitz. Gilead Sciences is also an investor. Kleiner Perkins has a significant equity interest.