- AbbVie has paid $105 million upfront to secure exclusive global rights to Tizona's Therapeutics' research into CD39-targeted therapies, including the preclinical antibody TTX-030. AbbVie will also invest an unspecified sum in Tizona equity, and has lined up development and commercial milestone payments.
- Per the deal, Tizona will carry out clinical development through Phase 1b clinical trials, after which AbbVie has an exclusive option to lead global development and commercialization. Clinical trials of TTX-030 are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019.
- Tizona is a South San Francisco, California-based private company, which also announced Thursday that former Roche executive Scott Clarke joined the company as CEO.
Like many big pharmas, immuno-oncology is a priority for AbbVie. But the company lacks a checkpoint inhibitor like those that have lifted the fortunes of sector leaders Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche.
AbbVie is active, however, in exploring other, lesser-known targets of interest within immuno-oncology, CD39 being a good example.
A recent analysis from the Cancer Research Institute found five immuno-oncolgoy agents targeting CD39 moving through development.
An enzyme, CD39 works to begin conversion of an immune stimulatory signal to an immune suppressive one within the tumor microenvironment. AbbVie and Tizona believe inhibiting CD39 could help restore and strengthen immune response against tumors that have co-opted the body's normal response.
AstraZeneca is also exploring CD39 through a deal with Innate Pharma that gave the pharma a 9.8% stake in the biotech along with a slate of immuno-oncology drugs. That deal included an option for joint development and commercialization of Innate's anti-CD39 monoclonal antibody.
Surface Oncology's fully human monoclonal antibody targeting CD39, meanwhile, is nearing clinical testing.
Recently, AbbVie has been inking a number of small deals as part of its immuno-oncology push. Over the past 18 months, the pharma has licensed Turnstone Biologics' clinical-stage oncolytic viral immunotherapies, and set up a collaboration with Harpoon Therapeutics to combine the biotech's tri-specific T-cell activating construct platform with AbbVie's immuno-oncology targets.