Astellas subsidiary Xyphos Biosciences has entered a research partnership and licence agreement with Kelonia Therapeutics aimed at developing new immuno-oncology therapeutics in an $875m deal.

The alliance will merge Xyphos’ ACCEL technology with Kelonia’s in vivo gene placement system to develop universal, off-the-shelf in vivo chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies for up to two programmes.

Kelonia focuses on genetic medicine innovation and utilises its in vivo gene placement system to precisely deliver genetic material to the target cells within the patient’s body.

This system employs lentiviral particles for efficient delivery.

Xyphos’ ACCEL technology platform features the convertible CAR used on immune cells.

Xyphos will oversee the development and marketing of the products resulting from the joint research.

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Kelonia is entitled to an upfront payment of $40m for the first programme.

If Xyphos opts for the second programme, an additional $35m will be paid to Kelonia.

The deal also includes potential milestones and contingency payments of $800m.

Kelonia also stands to gain from research and development (R&D) funding for its collaboration efforts in addition to tiered royalty payments on net product sales.

Astellas chief strategy officer Adam Pearson stated: “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.

“With iGPS, Kelonia has an elegant, cutting-edge in vivo delivery technology, and by combining with the ACCEL 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.”

In December 2023, Astellas Pharma and Elpiscience signed a research partnership and licence agreement for two new bispecific macrophage engagers, ES019 and another undisclosed programme, in a $1.7bn deal.

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