Press Releases

Aya Jakobovits, Ph.D., Named President and CEO of Kite Pharma, Inc.

LOS ANGELES, Calif., September 16, 2010 – Kite Pharma, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, focused on developing innovative active immunotherapies for cancer, announced today the appointment of Aya Jakobovits, Ph.D. as President and Chief Executive Officer.  Dr. Jakobovits brings over 20 years of broad experience in the biotech industry and a proven track record in building successful companies.

"Active immunotherapy is an emerging therapeutic modality for the treatment of multiple cancer indications," said Dr. Jakobovits. "The unique products and technologies invented by Kite's founding team and collaborators, together with its leading advisory team, strongly position the company to develop innovative immunotherapies that will provide a new arsenal for the treatment of cancer. I am excited to join Kite Pharma and look forward to building the company into a leader in active immunotherapy."  

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jakobovits, a prominent figure in the field of immunotherapy, as President and CEO of Kite Pharma. Her prior success in growing biotechnology companies, her strategic vision, and extensive experience in pharmaceutical development will make her instrumental to the success of Kite as it develops its product pipeline and expand on its proprietary technologies," said Arie Belldegrun, M.D., Executive Chairman and Founder of Kite Pharma. "I look forward to growing a successful company with Dr. Jakobovits once again."

Owen Witte, M.D., Chairman of Kite's Scientific Advisory Board, commented, "The last decade has witnessed tremendous progress in the understanding of the molecular pathways underlying the immune system. Kite Pharma intends to capitalize on these discoveries and translate them into meaningful clinical applications. I am eager to collaborate with Dr. Jakobovits in developing cutting-edge, active, immune-based therapies for a variety of cancer indications."

Prior to joining Kite, Dr. Jakobovits served as Executive Vice President, Head, Research and Development at Agensys, Inc., which became an affiliate of Astellas Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as part of a deal valued at $537 million in December 2007.  Dr. Jakobovits had served as Senior Vice President, Technology and Corporate Development, and Chief Scientific Officer of Agensys, which she joined the company in 1999. She led the transition of Agensys from a small research lab into an integrated biotech company through the establishment of a portfolio of proprietary cancer targets, a clinical pipeline of therapeutic human antibodies in multiple cancer indications, and numerous industry partnerships.

Before joining Agensys, Dr. Jakobovits served as the Director, Discovery Research and Principal Scientist at Abgenix, Inc., which was spun out of Cell Genesys in 1996 based on the XenoMouse® technology developed under her leadership. Abgenix was acquired by Amgen, Inc. for $2.2 billion.  Dr. Jakobovits initiated the development of XenoMouse® technology in 1989 at Cell Genesys, Inc., where she was a scientist founder and served as Director of Molecular Immunology. Dr. Jakobovits was a postdoctoral fellow at Genentech, Inc. and at the University of California, San Francisco. She received her Ph.D. in Life Sciences from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

About Kite Pharma, Inc.

Kite Pharma, Inc. is a privately held development stage biotechnology company engaged in the design and development of cutting-edge immunotherapeutic products to treat different cancer indications. Kite's lead products include antigens associated with a wide variety of tumor types, and are initially being developed for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. These potential therapies are designed to stimulate a patient's own immune system to help fight cancer and could represent novel strategies for the management and treatment of these otherwise incurable diseases.  Kite Pharma is based in Los Angeles, CA.  For more information, visit the company's website at