Amgen and Kite Pharma are to collaborate on the development of novel Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapies based on Kite's engineered autologous cell therapy (eACT) platform and Amgen's cancer targets.
Seen as the 'next big thing' in cancer treatment, CAR T technology works by genetically modifying a patient's T cells to target tumour cells and has shown promise in early studies.
Amgen will pay $60 million upfront and cover R&D expenses, which will enable Kite to test Amgen's cancer targets with its proprietary CAR platform, taking candidates through to Investigational New Drug (IND) filing with the US regulator. Each company will then develop its own chosen therapies.
Both firms will be eligible to receive up to $525 million in milestone payments per successful programme developed by the other, plus tiered royalties.
"The intersection of immunology and oncology represents one of the most promising approaches to delivering significant impact for patients with cancer," said Dr Sean Harper, executive vice president of R&D at Amgen.
Amgen's focus on cancer treatments was rewarded in December when its novel T-cell immunotherapy for leukaemia, Blincyto (blinatumomab), was granted breakthrough therapy designation by the US FDA.