- Astellas will pay Adaptimmune $50 million to develop three cancer-fighting T cell therapies, extending a collaboration that the biotech had with privately held Universal Cells, which Astellas bought in 2018 for $103 million.
- The Japanese pharma will fund $7.5 million worth of research annually and has offered total payments of $897.5 million if the products in the collaboration reach development and commercial goals. The deal doesn't apply to any experimental drugs Adaptimmune has advanced into clinical trials.
- The deal comes a day after Adaptimmune announced trial results from four patients treated with three different experimental drugs, news which caused the company's shares to triple in value Monday. With another stock surge today, Adaptimmune has gained more than $2 billion in valuation, taking it above the billion-dollar mark for the first time since mid-2019.
Since Astellas bought genome editing company Universal Cells in 2018, it had more than a passing familiarity with Adaptimmune's technology. The U.K.-domiciled, U.S.-listed biotech is aiming to deliver cancer treatments stimulating an immune response via the T cells in an allogeneic, or off-the-shelf, package.
Novartis, Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb, to name three leading companies, own pioneering technologies that enable the immune system to fight cancer through chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells. Their technologies, however, require that patients' own T cells be withdrawn and re-engineered before being re-injected into patients, a process that can cause treatment failures because of poor manufacturing or patient progression.
Allogeneic approaches, by contrast, hold out the promise of simpler treatment.
The collaboration announced today will cover up to three experimental drugs emerging from research into new targets and could involve development of therapies using T cell receptors or CARs. Astellas is funding research through the end of Phase 1 trials, at which point both Astellas and Adaptimmune will have an option to enter into a co-development and commercialization deal, or opt out and enter into a royalty-bearing licensing agreement.
Should Astellas opt out, it would be due up to $553 million in milestone payments from Adaptimmune.
Astellas also would have the right to develop treatments for two targets independently from Adaptimmune, which would entitle the biotech to additional licensing payments.
The deal comes on the heels of data that Adaptimmune outlined to investors at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on its clinical stage candidates. The company reported two confirmed partial responses from two different experimental drugs — one in a liver cancer patient treated with ADP-A2AFP, and the other in a metastatic rectal mucosal melanoma patients treated with ADP-A2M4. Both were the first patients treated in their respective trial cohorts.
Unconfirmed responses were seen in a patient with metastatic gastro-esophageal junction cancer treated with a third experimental drug called ADP-A2M4CD8, and in another with head and neck cancer treated with ADP-A2M4.
The valuation surge may allow Adaptimmune to raise money with an offering of new shares. As of September 30, 2019, the company had $97 million in cash and marketable securities, and had operating expenses of about $109 million through the first nine months of 2019.