HomeAstellas Partners With Kelonia to Develop New Immuno-Oncology Therapies

Astellas Partners With Kelonia to Develop New Immuno-Oncology Therapies

Astellas Pharma Inc. and Kelonia Therapeutics announced February 15th that Xyphos Biosciences, Inc., (a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas, “Xyphos”) and Kelonia have entered into a research collaboration and license agreement to develop novel Immuno-Oncology therapeutics.

A new wave of genetic medicines pioneer

Kelonia is a biotech company pioneering a new wave of genetic medicines using its in vivo gene placement system (iGPS®). iGPS® uses next generation lentiviral particles to efficiently deliver genetic cargo precisely to the desired target cells inside the patient’s body. Xyphos holds a novel and proprietary ACCELTM technology*1 platform that uses its convertibleCAR® (convertible Chimeric Antigen Receptor)*1 on immune cells.

Under the terms of the agreement, the companies plan to combine Kelonia’s iGPS® with Xyphos’ ACCELTM technology to develop innovative in vivo CAR-T Cell therapies*2 targeting up to two programs. 

Xyphos will be responsible for the development and commercialization of products created from the collaborative research. 

Kelonia will receive US $40 million upfront for the first program, and an additional US $35 million should Xyphos exercise its options for the second program, and potential milestones and contingency payments approaching US $800 million in total. Additionally, Kelonia will receive R&D funding for work performed in the collaboration and is eligible for tiered royalties on net sales up to the double digit percentage.

In vivo gene transfer strategies administer the gene therapy vector either directly to the target organ or via the vascular system into vessels feeding that organ. In vivo gene transfer has an advantage over ex vivo strategies in that it avoids the cumbersome (and costly) process of removing cells from the patient, manipulating the cells in vitro, and returning the genetically modified cells to the patient. 

“Revolutionary promise” to keep researching new cancer treatment options

Kevin Friedman, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of Kelonia, sees “revolutionary promise” in the partnership. “Our iGPS platform has the potential to be a step change in the treatment of cancer. Combining Kelonia’s in vivo gene delivery capabilities with the ACCELTM convertible CAR technology is an ideal marriage of technologies to create off-the-shelf, universal CAR-T Cell therapies. We see revolutionary promise in this approach, and will work diligently with our partners at Astellas to unlock its full potential for patients that need it most.”

Adam Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer (CStO) of Astellas, stresses the company’s promise to continue research for new cancer therapies.
“At Astellas, we have a strong commitment to developing novel treatments for patients with cancer and have positioned Immuno-Oncology as a Primary Focus of our R&D strategy*3. With iGPS, Kelonia has an elegant, cutting-edge in vivo delivery technology, and by combining with the ACCELTM platform, we believe the collaboration will bring synergies between the two companies’ breakthrough research and will ultimately lead to expansion of Astellas’ portfolio and to delivery of innovative in vivo CAR-T cell therapies to cancer patients.”

Last year, Astellas Pharma challenged the The Inflation Reduction Act in federal court, announcing it had filed a suit against legislation that “is not only bad policy, but unconstitutional.” The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) creates price-setting policies under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Drug Price Negotiation Program (Program) that will disrupt the competitive marketplace for prescription drugs in the United States, Astellas Pharma said.

Partnerships like the new one with Kelonia have been forged to advance research to fight cancer, by combining capabilities and strong points of the two companies. Back in 2021, the world of cancer research provided some great news as Genentech struck a deal with Vaccibody to partner up on research, focusing on the latter’s success on neoantigen phase one cancer vaccines.

*1 ACCELTM technology and convertibleCAR®: ACCELTM technology is based on a synthetic biology approach that utilizes the binding of an engineered protein ligand to an orthogonal engineered receptor which forms the extracellular domain of a convertible CAR (chimeric antigen receptor). The convertibleCAR® is targeted to tumor cells with a tumor-associated antigen-specific engineered antibody-like molecule (MicAbody) containing the engineered ligand.
*2 in vivo CAR-T cell therapies: A therapy in which the CAR gene is introduced into the patient’s cells residing in the body. The CAR gene is expressed in vivo to create immune cells that identify and attack cancer cells. Unlike conventional CAR-T cell therapy, there is no need to culture the extracted immune cells outside the body and then return them to the patient after conditioning chemotherapy, which is expected to be more tolerable and accelerate treatment to improve patients’ access to the therapy.

*3: Astellas has established a Focus Area Approach for its research and development strategy. 

About Astellas

Astellas Pharma Inc. is a pharmaceutical company conducting business in more than 70 countries around the world. They are promoting the Focus Area Approach that is designed to identify opportunities for the continuous creation of new drugs to address diseases with high unmet medical needs by focusing on Biology and Modality. Furthermore, they are also looking beyond their foundational Rx focus to create Rx+® healthcare solutions that combine their expertise and knowledge with cutting-edge technology in different fields of external partners. Through these efforts, Astellas stands on the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into VALUE for patients.

About Xyphos Biosciences, Inc., an Astellas Company

Xyphos Biosciences, Inc., located at South San Francisco, Calif., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas featuring ACCELTM technology, a CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) technology platform for immune cell therapies. Xyphos Biosciences was launched in 2017, and the Company was acquired by Astellas Pharma in December of 2019. 

About Kelonia Therapeutics

Kelonia is pioneering a new wave of genetic medicines using its in vivo gene placement system (iGPS®). The company’s elegant, cutting-edge in vivo gene delivery technology uses an advanced lentiviral vector particle harboring envelope modifications to improve in vivo gene transfer efficiency and tropism molecules to facilitate tissue-specific delivery. Initially focused on developing transformational in vivo CAR T therapies for hematologic cancers, Kelonia is building a pipeline of genetic medicines for a range of diseases, with the bold goal of making genetic medicines accessible to every patient in need, when and where they need them.

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