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GSK pays $50m upfront to tap Immatics’ cell therapy platform

Deal focuses on T cell receptor therapies

GSK

GlaxoSmithKline has extended its reach in cell therapies via a licensing deal with German biotech Immatics that could lead to multiple immuno-oncology therapies.

The deal – which includes a €45m ($50m) upfront fee for two initial programmes and up to $550m apiece in development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments plus royalties – is focusing on T cell receptor (TCR) therapies for solid tumours against two undisclosed targets.

It’s another example of GSK expanding its oncology pipeline under new R&D chief Hal Barron, which has already seen its portfolio double to 17 clinical-stage projects since he came on board, after all-but exiting the category a few years ago via an asset-swap deal with Novartis.

Under the terms of the latest deal, Immatics will be in charge of taking the TCR projects through to the stage where a clinical candidate has been identified, with GSK taking over thereafter.

The two companies will work together on developing autologous TCRs in the first instance – in other words using cells derived from patients – but may also extend the partnership to allogeneic or ‘off-the-shelf’ therapies, according to Immatics.

TCR therapies are emerging as a new type of cell therapy that involves re-engineering T cells so they are better at binding to and destroying cancer cells. It’s a similar approach to CAR-T therapy, but according to Immatics TCRs should have broader utility because they can be targeted at proteins inside cancer cells.

Moreover, unlike currently-approved CAR-T therapies for cancer like Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead/Kite’s Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) which are approved for haematologic cancers, TCRs has the potential to treat solid tumours.

GSK is just the latest in a series of drugmakers to cut deals with Immatics for access to its cell therapy expertise, and it has previously partnered with Celgene, Amgen, Roche and Genmab.

Meanwhile, the UK drugmaker is also steadily building a position in cell therapies. Last year, it signed a five-year collaboration with Lyell Immunopharma that is also aimed at the development of cell therapies for solid tumours.

Lyell’s technology will be used to improve GSK’s cell therapy candidates, including GSK3377794, which targets the NY-ESO-1 antigen and was originally developed by Austrian biotech Adaptimmune as part of a TCR-focused alliance signed in 2014. GSK took full ownership of the therapy in 2018.

GSK’s push into cancer has also included its $5.1bn acquisition of Tesaro, which brought in PARP inhibitor Zejula (niraparib). Barron has said Zejula is one of three that he expects to drive the regrowth of GSK as an oncology player, along with recently-filed BCMA antibody-drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin for multiple myeloma and dostarlimab for endometrial cancer.

Article by
Phil Taylor

21st February 2020

From: Sales

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