Conkwest, Inc., a company developing the proprietary immunotherapeutic Natural Killer (NK) cell-line platform, Neukoplast (NK-92), has announced that physician scientist Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, NantWorks founder, has agreed to acquire almost $48 million of the Company’s Class A Common Stock.
As a result of the investment, Dr. Soon-Shiong will be made Co-Chairman of the Conkwest Board of Directors.
In addition, Sorrento Therapeutics will also acquire $2 million of Class A Common Stock.
Neukoplast, or NK-92, is a natural killer cell line that can recognize, bind and kill cells that express stress ligands, including LFA-3, Heparin Sulfate, ICAM-1, which are commonly upregulated by cancer cells and virus infected cells.
This cellular technology has already proven successful in the laboratory, using in vitro assays, and in human clinical studies. Furthermore, NK-92 has the capacity to avoid the serious toxic side effects observed upon CAR-T therapy administration, with its first U.S. Phase 2 trial in Merkel cell carcinoma being currently designed.
“The collaborations between NantWorks and Sorrento and between Sorrento and Conkwest offer access to state-of-the-art technologies, capabilities and expertise that are synergistic and will enable the accelerated development of many potent and novel cancer immunotherapies,” Dr. Soon-Shiong, founder and CEO of NantWorks, said in a press release. “We look forward to contributing to this close and supportive collaboration with the shared goal of providing much-needed treatments for patients suffering from malignant disorders with significant unmet need.”
Conkwest’s is currently developing their universal antibody-targeted CD16-Neukoplast, which expresses CD16 together with ER-IL2, this way specifically targeting therapeutic antibodies like Rituxan, Herceptin and Erbitux.
“Immunotherapy is one of the most powerful next-generation platforms added to our war against cancer. Integration of Nantomics advanced proteomics platform with the power of Sorrento’s fully human antibody libraries and Conkwest’s natural killer cell-lines is expected to enable an approach to attack tumors and their micro-metastases in a manner never before addressed. NantWorks ‘GMP in a Box’ cell production methods, together with the company’s proprietary means of gene transfer without the need of lentivirus insertion is expected to enable the next generation of NK based immunotherapy to emerge,” added Dr. Dr. Soon-Shiong.