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Celgene boosts IO presence with Immatics deal

Immatics technology promises to go beyond CAR-T capabilities

Celgene

Celgene is not slowing down its strategic deals ahead of its merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb, and has strengthened its immunotherapy (IO) focus with a collaboration with Immatics Biotechnologies. 

German biotech Immatics focuses on the discovery and development of T-cell redirecting cancer immunotherapies, and under the strategic collaboration will aim to develop T-cell receptor-engineered T-celltherapy (TCR-T) programmes.

The deal will see Immatics receive an immediate payment of $75m for three programmes and it could be eligible for up to $505m for each licensed product in milestone payments.

TCR-T immunotherapy falls under the adoptive cell transfer (ACT) platform, and involves engineering patients’ T cells to express a specific receptor. They use naturally occurring receptors that can recognise antigens on the surface and inside tumour cells. CAR-T cell therapies, the most clinically established form of ACT, can recognise only the specific antigens on the surface of cancer cells.

Immatics’ XPRESIDENT technology and XCEPTOR TCR discovery and engineering platform are tailored to developing effective TCR-T cell therapies. The deal will give Celgene the option to assume sole responsibility for any programmes Immatics has developed through to lead candidate stage.

Celgene will also be able to manufacture and gain worldwide commercialisation rights to the TCR-T cell therapies developed by Immatics. However, Immatics will still retain certain early stage co-development rights or co-funding rights for selected TCR-T cell therapies which are developed under the collaboration.

The deal adds to Celgene existing presence in cell therapy - it is working with Bluebird Bio, on CAR-T therapy bb2121 for multiple myeloma, which is tipped to be a leader among a group of new entrants in the disease area.

It also acquired CAR-T specialist Juno therapeutics for $9bn in 2018, giving it rights to lead CAR-T candidate JCAR017 (lisocabtagene maraleucel). Celgene is preparing to file both these lead candidates before the end of 2020.

These candidates are among the most promising in Celgene’s portfolio, and once the merger is complete, with create a formidable oncology franchise, adding to BMS' checkpoint inhibitor blockbuster Opdivo.

BMS/Celgene know they must build their cancer business, as Opdivo is losing out to its big checkpoint inhibitor rival, Merck & Co's Keytruda. Celgene's cash cow blockbuster Revlimid is expected to face limited patent expiry in in the US from 2022, with full exposure not currently scheduled  until 2029, though it will be certain to face patent challenges.

The deal comes just days after the company confirmed the sale of its blockbuster psoriasis drug, Otezla to Amgen for $13.4bn, required by the US anti-trust regulator the FTC before the merger could go ahead.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

28th August 2019

From: Research

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