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Newly-listed BioNTech buys Neon to boost cell therapy assets

German biotech has agreed to pay $67m in the deal

BioNTech

Just weeks after its $150m initial public offering, German biotech BioNTech has acquired troubled US counterpart Neon Therapeutics, adding to its cell therapy portfolio.

BioNTech has agreed to pay $67m for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Neon, which ended 2019 on a sour note by dropping its clinical-stage personalised cancer vaccine NEO-PV-01 after disappointing data in phase 2 in lung, bladder and skin cancers, slashing its staff and refocusing on various preclinical candidates.

BioNTech said the deal would expand its CAR-T and T cell receptor (TCR) pipeline, allowing it to tap into Neon’s portfolio of cancer neoantigens – newly formed antigens that have not been previously recognised by the immune system that can differentiate malignant from healthy cells.

The lead drug in that programme is NEO-PTC-01, a T-cell therapy targeting shares RAS oncogenes in solid tumours, initially heading for a clinical trial on metastatic melanoma patients who are not responding to treatment with checkpoint inhibitor drugs like Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck & Co’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Also in the pipeline is NEO-STC-01, another RAS-targeted therapy that is in preclinical development and is being pitched as a possible therapy for pancreatic cancer. BioNTech also gets rights to Neon’s neoantigen-hunting platform, which relies on sequencing patients’ tumours.

Neon’s valuation in the deal is $2.18 per share, well above its closing share price of $1.23 ahead of the announcement but a fraction of the $16 per share the company secured for shares in its IPO less than two years ago.

Mainz-based BioNTech specialises in drugs and vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) and has already secured a string of big pharma partners including deals with Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche, Eli Lilly and Bayer.

In a statement, BioNTech said the deal would give it a US hub for research and clinical development, with Neon operating as a subsidiary company.

“This acquisition fits with our strategy to expand our capabilities and build our presence in the US and further strengthens our immunotherapy pipeline,” said Ugur Sahin, the German biotech’s chief executive.

“I am particularly excited about the adoptive T cell and neoantigen TCR therapies being developed by Neon, which are complementary to our pipeline and our focus on solid tumours.”

Neon is still conducting follow-up on a second trial of NEO-PV-01 in patients with untreated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with data due in the third quarter of 2020, giving an outside chance of a positive surprise for the programme.

Article by
Phil Taylor

17th January 2020

From: Sales

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