Kite Pharma and Alpine Immune Sciences (AIS) have entered a worldwide research and licence agreement to discover and develop protein-based immunotherapies targeting the immune synapse for treatment of cancer.

The deal will see AIS grant Kite an exclusive licence to two programmes from its transmembrane immunomodulatory protein (TIP) technology, which Kite plans to further engineer into chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T cell receptor (TCR) product candidates.

The partnership will accelerate Kite’s efforts to establish the next generation of engineered T cell therapies particularly designed to overcome the inhibitory mechanisms present in the tumour microenvironment.

Kite chairman, president and chief executive officer Arie Belldegrun said: "The field of immuno-oncology has the potential to significantly improve the outcome of patients with cancer.

"The field of immuno-oncology has the potential to significantly improve the outcome of patients with cancer."

"We believe the ability of AIS’s TIP technology to modulate the immune synapse can be incorporated into engineered T cell therapies to advance CAR and TCR product candidates into multiple tumour types.

"This collaboration is another example of Kite’s continuing commitment to advancing our pipeline through transformative technologies grounded in innovative science."

As part of the deal, Kite will make an upfront payment to AIS of $5m and additional payments to support AIS’s research.

In addition, AIS will be eligible to receive milestone payments based upon the successful achievement of pre-specified research, clinical and regulatory milestones totalling $530m plus low single-digit royalty payments on product sales.

Alpine executive chairman Mitchell Gold said: "AIS was established with a team of experienced scientists to capitalise on our keen understanding of immunology and protein engineering.

"At AIS, we have a robust discovery platform to identify molecules capable of directly modulating the immune synapse. We look forward to working with Kite, a company that uniquely understands the complexities surrounding cancer biology."

The deal will provide Kite an exclusive, worldwide licence to research, develop and commercialise engineered autologous T cell therapies incorporating two programmes coming from the AIS platform.

AIS has developed a proprietary variant immunoglobulin domain (vIgD) platform to improve or diminish an immune response.

Compared to other therapeutic approaches in development or available commercially, the vIgD platform is designed to interact with multiple targets in the immune synapse.