Kuur’s NKT cell platform technology will help Athenex to expand its cell therapy development capabilities


Athenex agrees to acquire Kuur Therapeutics. (Credit: Tumisu from Pixabay)

US-based biopharmaceutical firm Athenex has agreed to acquire Kuur Therapeutics, a developer of off-the-shelf CAR-NKT cell immunotherapies that will help treat solid and haematological malignancies, for a total potential consideration of $185m.

As per the deal, Athenex will initially pay $70m to Kuur shareholders and certain of its former employees and directors, comprised primarily of equity in Athenex common stock.

Furthermore, they are eligible to receive milestone payments of up to $115m, which may be paid, at Athenex’s sole discretion, in either cash or additional Athenex common stock (or a combination of both).

Athenex CEO Dr Johnson Lau said: “We are excited to add Kuur Therapeutics and its innovative allogeneic CAR-NKT technology to the Athenex platform.

“Kuur’s innovative technology, combined with our TCR programme, could propel us into a leadership position in cell therapy. This platform also has the potential to provide synergies with other assets in our pipeline.”

Kuur Therapeutics’ platform engineers CARs expressed by semi-invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells that combine the features of T and NK cells and is being developed in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

NKT cells are innate-like T lymphocytes that express a semi-invariant TCR and preferentially reside in and traffic to tissues, including liver and bone marrow.

Kuur Therapeutics CEO Kevin Boyle, Sr., said: “CAR-NKT cells offer a distinct set of advantages over other immune effector cells commonly used for cell therapy.

“We are excited that the leadership at Athenex recognises the significant potential of this approach to provide effective treatment options for patients with both solid and haematological tumours.

“The development of these innovative therapies will be accelerated by combining Kuur’s experienced team with the extensive resources of Athenex.”

Cooley (UK) is serving as the sole advisor to Athenex on the transaction and SVB Leerink is acting as a financial advisor with HMB Legal Counsel serving as legal advisor to Kuur Therapeutics.