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Roche builds on Immunocore ImmTAC deal

Extends partnership to target MAGE-A4 protein tumours

Roche

Roche’s Genentech is to build on its existing partnership with T cell receptor (TCR) specialists Immunocore, and this time around the companies take aim at a certain protein type found in many solid tumours.

That protein is known as Melanoma-Associated Antigen A4 – or MAGE-A4 for short – and Immunocore’s bispecific redirection candidate, IMC-C103C, specifically targets this.

Under the terms of the deal, both companies will co-develop the candidate, but Immunocore will lead the first clinical trial, assessing safety and preliminary efficacy of IMC-C103C as both a monotherapy and in combination with Roche’s Tecentriq.

The trial is scheduled to start in early 2019, and will include a host of cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), bladder cancer, head and neck cancer, gastric cancer and oesophageal cancer.

The new deal comes at an interesting time, as Immunocore's Oxford 'twin' biotech Adaptimmune has recently seen its share price plunge after the failure of its MAGE-A4 and MAGE-A10 directed rival TCR, called SPEAR.

Andrew Hotchkiss

Immuncore's Andrew Hotchkiss

Andrew Hotchkiss, CEO of Immunocore, said: “MAGE-A4 is a known cancer-associated antigen expressed in a wide range of malignancies. Genentech is a leader in oncology with extensive immunology expertise, with whom we’ve had a good collaborative relationship for several years. We look forward to embarking upon this new partnership to investigate whether IMC-C103C could ultimately improve the lives of people with MAGE-A4 positive cancers.”

Immunocore will receive $100m in upfront and near-term milestone payments from Genentech, which has the option to co-develop IMC-C103C through commercialisation.

Beyond that, Genentech can also fully license the product in return for royalty and milestone payments.

James Sabry, Global Head of Pharma Partnering, Roche, commented: “We’ve had a very productive collaboration with Immunocore since we began our initial partnership in 2013. We’re excited to move this first molecule forward, both as a single agent and in combination with Tecentriq, and to further explore the role of T cell receptor-directed medicines in fighting cancer.”

The outcome of that initial partnership was to develop a number of novel cancer candidates by using Immunocore’s TCR technology known as ImmTAC (Immune Mobilising Monoclonal TCRs Against Cancer) molecules.

Those molecules are based on soluble, engineered TCR’s, which recognises and kills intracellular cancer antigens via an antiCD3 immune-redirecting function.

According to the company, the molecules can access up to nine-fold more target antigens than typical antibody-based approaches, including industry-leading monoclonal antibody-based drugs, which can only recognise changes on the surface of cells.

If the candidate makes it through to commercialisation, it could pave the way for the next-generation of bi-specific biological drugs, potentially disrupting the $100bn monoclonal antibody drug market.

Immuncore's lead in-house project, IMCgp100, is in pivotal studies for uveal melanoma, and encouraging phase 1 data was presented at ASCO earlier this year.

A phase 2 trial of around 150 patients is scheduled to complete enrolment by September 2019, with filing as early as 2020 if the data prove robust enough.

The new deal is also a vote of confidence in the management of Immunocore, which has seen many senior departures in 2018, Andrew Hotchkiss taking over as CEO when Eliot Forster left in February.

Article by
Gemma Jones

19th November 2018

From: Research, Sales

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