Dear Kite: With 2300% up­side, we blazed an amaz­ing trail

With the $12 bil­lion Kite buy­out now signed, sealed and de­liv­ered, CEO Arie Bellde­grun has penned a thank-you note to every­one who helped along the way.

Here it is, in its en­tire­ty.


To My Kite Fam­i­ly –

Arie Bellde­grun

For all of us, the Kite ex­pe­ri­ence has been more than just an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ty or a step­ping stone in a pro­fes­sion­al ca­reer. Over the past eight years, Kite has be­come an in­te­gral part of our lives and a foun­da­tion from which hope be­came more than just an as­pi­ra­tion.

To our pa­tients: You put your faith in us and an ex­per­i­men­tal tech­nol­o­gy known as CAR T ther­a­py. That faith al­lowed a small proof-of-con­cept tri­al to po­ten­tial­ly pro­duce the first-and-on­ly ap­proved CAR T ther­a­py for mul­ti­ple forms of large B-cell lym­phoma. We now have the po­ten­tial to treat thou­sands of pa­tients in need and the means to ex­pand the tech­nol­o­gy to treat many oth­er tu­mors.

To clin­i­cians, our stead­fast part­ners: Your tire­less ef­forts in con­duct­ing clin­i­cal tri­als, with the sole pur­pose of giv­ing your pa­tients hope when no oth­er op­tions re­mained, is to be com­mend­ed. You should be proud. Your de­ter­mi­na­tion and ex­per­tise have paved the way for oth­ers to fol­low.

To our in­vestors: I am hon­ored and hum­bled by your con­tin­ued be­lief in us. Some of you joined me in the nascent stages of Kite, where you in­vest­ed in sim­ply my word, pas­sion and be­lief. While oth­er in­vestors came lat­er, all of you stood by our side, time and time again, even when oth­ers tried to in­fuse doubt. You have been wise ad­vi­sors and fierce sen­tinels.

To our Board of Di­rec­tors: Your sup­port and guid­ance is be­yond what any­one may read in an SEC fil­ing. You have been our guardians and teach­ers, each bring­ing your own set of ex­pe­ri­ences and in­sights for the bet­ter­ment of every­one in­volved in Kite. You have helped us build and pre­serve a bright fu­ture for cell ther­a­py.

To our UCLA friends and Sci­en­tif­ic Founders: Back in 2009, your un­pop­u­lar be­lief that cel­lu­lar im­munother­a­py not on­ly held great promise for the treat­ment of pa­tients but could al­so be brought to pa­tients with oth­er­wise in­cur­able can­cer was para­mount to the suc­cess of Kite. Your friend­ship, ex­per­tise and sup­port of the en­tire Kite fam­i­ly for the past eight years is the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of a suc­cess­ful aca­d­e­m­ic-in­dus­try part­ner­ship. I can­not thank you enough for all you have done for Kite.

To our em­ploy­ees: I can’t imag­ine work­ing along­side a braver, more pas­sion­ate or more com­mit­ted group of peo­ple, of­ten­times at the qui­et sac­ri­fice of your per­son­al lives. Your de­vo­tion has been with­out lim­it or ques­tion, even in the face of skep­tics.

In a span of just a few short years, we grew from few­er than 10 em­ploy­ees to al­most 700. The com­pa­ny’s val­ue in­creased 2300% from the time of our IPO to near­ly $12 bil­lion with the ac­qui­si­tion by Gilead Sci­ences. Our clos­ing $180 per share price rep­re­sents not just a 960% ap­pre­ci­a­tion from the IPO price of $17 per share, but the largest ever pre-com­mer­cial bio­phar­ma ac­qui­si­tion.

Kite has changed so many lives in just eight years. I know it has changed mine. I hope it has changed yours, too.

In this, my last of­fi­cial up­date as Pres­i­dent and CEO of Kite, I re­main filled with hope. Hope that Kite’s maid­en flight is mere­ly the first leg of a jour­ney, with an ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion more amaz­ing than any of us can to­day con­ceive. Hope that we, in­di­vid­u­al­ly, and col­lec­tive­ly, re­main fo­cused on the cure and con­tin­ue to work to­ward this no­ble pur­suit. And, hope that I get the chance to shake your hand and per­son­al­ly thank each of you for what you have done to make the Kite dream pos­si­ble.

Hope is on­ly the be­gin­ning, not the strat­e­gy.

Thank you all again for your years of sup­port. None of this would have been pos­si­ble with­out each of you.

Arie

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.

Arde­lyx bags its first FDA OK for IBS, set­ting up a show­down with Al­ler­gan, Iron­wood

In the first of what it hopes will be a couple of major regulatory milestones for its new drug, Ardelyx has bagged an FDA approval to market Ibsrela (tenapanor) for irritable bowel syndrome.

The drug’s first application will be for IBS with constipation (IBS-C), inhibiting sodium-hydrogen exchanger NHE3 in the GI tract in such a way as to increase bowel movements and decrease abdominal pain. This comes on the heels of two successful Phase III trials.