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Autolus Therapeutics, BMS Partner to Develop Cell Therapies Equipped With Safety Switches

NEW YORK – Autolus Therapeutics and Bristol Myers Squibb on Tuesday said they have inked a cell therapy development deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, BMS will incorporate Autolus' safety switch technology — a method that involves using a pharmaceutical agent to eliminate a cell therapy in a patient's body if they experience severe adverse events — into several of its cell therapy programs.

Autolus' safety switch uses the drug rituximab, which binds to CD20 on the surface of cell therapy, and if triggered, kills the cells that comprise the therapy in the event of serious toxicity.

In exchange for its safety switch, dubbed RQR8, London-based Autolus will receive an undisclosed amount in upfront payment, which will cover the technology's use in an initial set of BMS cell therapy programs. The deal also includes the option for BMS to incorporate the switch into additional cell therapy programs beyond the initial set.

Autolus is also eligible for royalty payments on sales of BMS's cell therapy products that use the safety switch as well as development milestone payments.

"Safety switches are critical to the future of our field of advanced cell therapies," Autolus CSO Martin Pule said in a statement. "They allow us to develop approaches that are designed to significantly improve patient outcomes, whilst at the same time incorporating the potential to reduce the risk of severe adverse side effects from the treatment."