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Pfizer turns to cancer immunotherapies

Signs deal with French company Cellectis
Pfizer

Pfizer has added its name to the growing list of pharma companies turning to immunotherapy for the next big development in cancer treatment.

The US-based company today agreed a deal today French firm Cellectis to develop oncology immunotherapies based on Cellectis' Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technology, which uses a body's T-cells to target tumour cells in patients with cancer.

Covering multiple cancer types, the deal is a sign of the pharma industry's confidence in using immunotherapies – medicines that trigger the body's immune system into fighting a disease – to treat cancer.

Other companies to make headways in the field include Merck & Co and AstraZeneca (AZ), both of which presented impressive data at the recent ASCO meeting in Chicago.

Merck's most promising prospect is pembrolizumab, an anti-PD1 therapy currently under review for use in melanoma, while AZ has its own anti-PD1 drug in the form of MEDI3476.

Pfizer would have gained the rights to MEDI3476 if it had succeeded in its bid to take over AZ. Instead, the company will now focus on developing immunotherapies using the CAR-T technology, with the deal covering 15 targets selected by Pfizer and 12 targets selected by Cellectis.

Pfizer will be responsible for the development and commercialisation of any of its selected targets, while both companies will work together on preclinical research on four of Cellectis' selected targets, with Pfizer having right of first refusal on any of these prospects. The eight additional targets will be developed independently by Cellectis.

To support this research, Cellectis said its expects to open a research site in the US to work more closely with Pfizer's scientists.

The financial terms of the deal see Cellectis receive an upfront payment of $80m, as well as funding for R&D costs associated with the 15 Pfizer-selected targets and the four Cellectis-selected targets.

In addition, Cellectis is eligible to receive milestone payments of up to $185m for each Pfizer product.

Article by
Thomas Meek

18th June 2014

From: Research

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