Frankfurt Biontech is expanding its activities beyond Covid-19 vaccines: The Mainz-based biotech company is buying a cell therapy platform from the US company Kite. With the acquisition, Biontech wants to strengthen its cancer pipeline. Specifically, the kite technology is to be used to develop individual immunotherapies that redirect the patient’s own immune system so that it recognizes and attacks tumors.
In addition to the development platform, Biontech is also buying a production facility from Kite in Gaithersburg, USA, which functions as a research and development site and offers production facilities for the clinical development of cell therapies.
“The development of individualized cancer therapies is at the heart of Biontech,” says Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of Biontech, explaining the transaction. The takeover of the production facility as well as the individualized cell therapy platform from Kite enables the company to accelerate the clinical development of cell therapies in the USA and to continue to lead the development, said Sahin.
The production facility in the USA will complement Biontech’s existing production capacities for cell therapies at the Idar-Oberstein site in Germany. Biontech is offering all kite employees an employment contract before the takeover at the Gaithersburg location, the Mainz-based company announced on Monday. Biontech wants to invest in the location and hire more employees. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
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The biotech company Kite, which was acquired by the US pharmaceutical company Gilead in 2017, wants to focus energy and investments on expanding its so-called cart T-cell therapies in the future. In these treatments, the patient’s own cells are genetically modified outside the body and then returned to the patient to combat the disease.
Biontech wants to advance therapy against new tumors
Such therapies are used, for example, in certain forms of leukemia. The technology that Kite sells to Biontech, on the other hand, is intended for the development of drug candidates against so-called solid tumors, i.e. the formation of new tissue. In this so-called T-cell receptor therapy, too, T cells are taken from a patient and genetically modified outside the body, but with DNA and not with a synthetic construct as in Car-T therapy. T cells are white blood cells that play an important role in the immune system.
To expand its position in T-cell therapies, Biontech bought the US company Neon Therapeutics for $ 67 million last year. Biontech is known to the general public primarily for its Covid-19 vaccine. The company was originally founded in 2008 with the aim of developing innovative, individualized cancer therapies.
The company now has 13 products in 14 clinical studies in this area. Various technologies are used, such as antibodies, classic active ingredients, cell therapies, but also mRNA-based vaccines, such as the Covid-19 vaccine. The most advanced drug candidate against cancer is being researched by Biontech in collaboration with Roche subsidiary Genentech and is in the second of three phases of clinical development.
According to the latest quarterly publication, Biontech expects sales of 9.8 billion euros this year from the business with the Covid vaccine Comirnaty, which the company developed together with US partner Pfizer.
More: The fight against cancer remains a lucrative business.