Kiadis Pharma and Sanofi to unlock power of natural killer cells in multiple myeloma

Sanofi has struck an exclusive rights deal with Dutch biotech Kiadis focused on combining modified natural killer cells with the French pharma’s blood cancer antibody Sarclisa. 

Sarclisa (isatuximabtargets the CD38 biomarkers and is Sanofi’s answer to Johnson & Johnson’s Darzalex (daratumumab), and was approved in its first indication to treat relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma in March. 

The French company wants to find ways to differentiate its therapies from Darzalex, which is a blockbuster seller after several FDA approvals in different stages of the disease and combinations with other drugs. 

The deal with Sanofi will work on combining Sarclisa with Kiadis’ CD38KO natural killer cells, focusing on a candidate codenamed K-NK004 and two other undisclosed candidates. 

Natural killer (NK) cells are the human body’s first line of defense against cancer and infections but tend to get knocked down by treatment with anti-CD38 antibodies.

This is because NK cells express CD38 and themselves become targeted by drugs such as Darzalex and Sarclisa as an off-target side-effect known as “fratricide”.

Kiadis aims to work around this by producing NK cells that are genetically modified to reduce expression of CD38 and are therefore resistant to the fratricide effect.

It’s hoped that infusion of CD38KO K-NK cells in combination with Sarclisa will restore the natural synergism between NK cells and antibodies to kill tumour cells and thereby optimise efficacy. 

Kiadis will receive a 17.5 million euro up front payment and there is potential for up to 857.5 million euros in preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, and up to double-digit royalties. 

Under the terms of this agreement, Sanofi will be responsible for and bear all costs related to the research and development, manufacturing, regulatory and commercial activities related to the licensed K-NK drugs.  

Kiadis has retained exclusive rights to and will supply PM21 particles that stimulate NK cells and will select universal donors for Sanofi, paid for by Sanofi. 

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