Roche Forms Two Immunotherapy Pacts Valued Up to $900 Million

Roche has formed two immunotherapy pacts valued up to $900 million.

In the first deal, Roche has formed a research collaboration and license agreement with Pieris Pharmaceuticals, Inc, a biotechnology company advancing novel bio therapeutics through its proprietary Anticalin technology platform, in cancer immunotherapy (CIT). Under the terms of the agreement, Pieris will discover, characterize and optimize Anticalin-based drug candidates against an undisclosed target. Roche and Pieris will evaluate different drug formats against this target and advance them through preclinical development, with Roche being responsible for investigational new drug application-enabling activities, clinical development, and worldwide marketing of any resulting products. Pieris will receive an upfront payment of CHF 6.5 million ($6.4 million) and committed research funding, and may receive development and regulatory-based milestone payments, sales-based milestone payments as well as mid single-digit to low double-digit royalties on any future product sales. If all milestones and other conditions are met, the total payments to Pieris could surpass CHF 415 million ($409.3 million USD), excluding royalties.

With its immuno-oncology PRS-300 Series, which remains proprietary to the company, Pieris is developing bispecific Anticalin-based protein therapeutics against a variety of tumor and immunomodulatory targets. These compounds, including its lead program PRS-343 (CD137/HER2 bispecific), aim to activate the immune system in the tumor microenvironment, with the goal of increasing efficacy as well as improving safety compared to existing approaches. This collaboration represents Pieris’ first partnered immuno-oncology program and leverages Pieris’ capability to address a target in multiple ways through Anticalin-based drug candidates in different formats.

In a separate, second deal, Roche has partnered with SQZ Biotech to develop a cell therapy platform using a patient’s own immune cells to fight a broad range of cancers. The deal leverages SQZ's technology to engineer B cells as a therapeutic platform for oncology, which seeks to overcome many of the shortcomings of current cell-based therapies. The agreement provides for over $500 million in upfront and potential clinical, regulatory, and sales milestone-based payments for advancement of all products across all planned indications, in addition to royalties on potential future products.

The proposed therapy involves using SQZ technology to introduce proteins into a patient's B cells which will then help activate killer T-cells to attack the cancer. The company was spun out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on research by Dr. Armon Sharei, Prof. Klavs Jensen, and Prof. Robert Langer. The company is based in Boston and is backed by Polaris Venture Partners and 20/20 Healthcare Partners.

Source: Pieris Pharmaceuticals and SQZ Biotech

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