Welcome to your Cell Therapy Deal Review for the month of January. Things got off to a quick start with a number of cell-based immunotherapy companies announcing deals and research collaborations out of the gate, including a third acquisition by Juno.
Juno Therapeutics (JUNO) brought further depth to its research & discovery platform through the acquisition of privately held AbVitro, a Boston-based company with technology for high-throughput sequencing of single cells. Juno plans to incorporate the platform into its Seattle operation where it will be used to identify novel cancer targets and novel binders of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and T cell receptors (TCRs). In consideration for the company, JUNO paid U.S. $78 million in cash and 1.3 million JUNO shares. Partner Celgene will be entitled to sub-license aspects of the technology and retain certain product rights.
Fibrocell Science (FCSC), a specialist in the production of engineered skin cells, and Intrexon (XON) announced a collaboration to develop engineered fibroblasts for indications of the joint. Fibrocell has already collaborated with Intrexon on preclinical development of FCX-007 and FCX-013, gene therapies for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa and linear scleroderma, respectively. The objective of the collaboration will be to design therapies that express specific proteins at the joint to preclude the need for repeat injections, which are currently standard-of-care.
Several public-private partnerships were announced, including:
- Eureka Therapeutics, Juno, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute formed a partnership to develop a novel, fully-human binding domain to MUC16 for MUC16+ cancers, including ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal. Juno has a Phase 1 study of a MUC16/IL-12 armored CAR product ongoing. Juno has been granted an exclusive, global license to the technology. Terms were not disclosed.
- Biologics developer Sorrento Therapeutics (SRNE) and the Karolinska Institute formed a partnership to develop engineered natural killer (NK) cell therapies. Sorrento will retain rights to any products commercialized through the agreement. Terms were not disclosed.
- Kite Pharma (KITE) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) formed a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for the development of fully human anti-CD19 CAR products. The agreement will also see KITE and the NCI develop next-generation CAR products against other novel targets. No terms were disclosed.
- Kite Pharma and Leiden University Medical Center formed a research and licensing deal to develop TCR product candidates that target solid tumour cancers expressing HPV type 16. KITE will receive an option to license multiple TCR sequences arising from the deal.
- ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC) and the University of Maryland formed a sponsored research agreement to enhance IMUC’s dendritic cell platform and Stem-to-T-cell platform, with an emphasis on combinatorial approaches. Three projects will be launched: 1) evaluation of molecules to enhance T cell cytotoxicity; 2) evaluation of combining T cell and dendritic cell technologies for eradicating cancer; and, 3) evaluation of novel peptide sequences for enhancing T cell response from dendritic cell-based vaccines.
Universities and medical centres continue to be the catalyst for innovating advanced medicinal products, both in terms of company creation and novel technologies to augment pipelines, as evidenced by the plethora of public-private deals we continue to see in the space.