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Gilead shells out $375m for immuno-oncology deal with Arcus

Wide-ranging deal gives company access to bulk of biotech’s immuno-oncology pipeline

Gilead

Gilead Sciences has accelerated its push into cancer with a wide-ranging deal with Arcus that gives it access to the bulk of the biotech’s immuno-oncology pipeline.

Arcus is claiming a $175m upfront payment under the  alliance, plus a $200m equity investment by Gilead, and could get up to $1.6bn in funding, opt-in and milestone payments of projects that progress as hoped.

The strategic alliance is cut from the same cloth as Gilead’s wide-ranging agreement with Galapapos last year, which added six clinical and 20 preclinical programmes to its pipeline but was substantially larger with an upfront fee of $3.95bn.

The format is similar however, with Gilead securing opt-in co-development and co-marketing rights to Arcus’ small-molecule and antibody-based cancer immunotherapies. Arcus currently has a clinical-stage pipeline of four immuno-oncology programmes, with another six compounds at the preclinical stage.

Arcus pipeline is headed by anti-TIGIT antibody AB154 which is in a phase 2 trial in first-line non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as a combination therapy with anti-PD1 antibody zimberelimab, (AB122) and small-molecule adenosine A2a/A2b receptor antagonist AB928.

The study ties into the emerging trend of testing immuno-oncology drugs in combination to try to enhance efficacy and reduce the proportion of non-responders to first-generation checkpoint inhibitors, and should generate results before the end of the year.

The TIGIT drug is also being tested in phase 1b/2 trials in other indications, including prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, triple negative breast and kidney cancers.

Meanwhile zimberelimab on its own is in a phase 1b study looking at cancers that aren’t address by the current crop of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors such as Merck & Co/MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (nivolumab), and as a combination therapy.

This second major pipeline-boosting deal under chief executive Daniel O’Day – at the helm for just over a year – comes as the company is still suffering from a dramatic decline in hepatitis C sales, increased pressure in its HIV franchise, and with a lot of work still to be done on its push to diversify into cancer and liver diseases.

CAR-T therapy for cancer Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) – acquired as part of its $12bn takeover of Kite – has been slow to build sales, and Gilead has also hit the buffers with its lead non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) therapy selonsertib after failed pivotal trials.

Arcus immediately expands Gilead’s immuno-oncology pipeline with rights to zimberelimab, and options on AB154 (for a $500m fee) as well as all other clinical candidates for payments ranging from $200m to $275m. That includes AB928 and AB680, an anti-CD73 small-molecule drug in phase 1 testing involving patients with pancreatic and gastrointestinal cancers.

Gilead also gets opt-in rights to all other programmes that emerge from Arcus' research portfolio over the next decade, upon payment of $150 million per programme.

Article by
Phil Taylor

28th May 2020

From: Research, Regulatory, Healthcare

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