- AstraZeneca on Monday agreed to acquire privately held TeneoTwo for as much as $1.3 billion to get ahold of a dual-acting antibody drug the British drugmaker aims to develop for multiple blood cancers.
- Per deal terms, AstraZeneca will pay $100 million in cash upfront to acquire the company and its experimental treatment TNB-486. TeneoTwo’s shareholders, which include Lightspeed Venture Partners and SR One, could receive another $805 million if the drug reaches certain development milestones and additional $360 million if it hits certain unspecified commercial targets.
- TeneoTwo’s drug is what’s known as a T-cell engager, a dual-acting antibody that helps draw immune cells to tumors. The drug class has been the focus of several transactions in recent years, among them acquisitions by AbbVie and Amgen of other TeneoTwo affiliates. TNB-486 is currently in Phase 1 testing in relapsed and refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Bispecific antibodies, which simultaneously latch onto antigens on two different cells, have drawn considerable interest from large drugmakers in recent years. Dual-acting antibody drugs for cancer, hemophilia and a form of vision loss are now on the market and several for lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other malignancies could follow.
In blood cancer, for instance, dual-acting cancer medicines may become more convenient alternatives to the personalized, logistically complex cell therapies sold by Novartis, Gilead and Bristol Myers Squibb. Treatments from Roche, partners AbbVie and Genmab as well as Johnson & Johnson, among others, are in advanced stages of clinical testing.
With Monday’s deal, AstraZeneca is now in the mix too. The company believes TeneoTwo’s drug, used either alone or in combination with other agents, could help “deepen clinical responses and improve patient outcomes” in B-cell malignancies, Anas Younes, its senior vice president of hematology R&D, said in a statement.
The medicine binds to CD19, a target on B cells, as well as a T cell receptor called CD3. Amgen’s marketed leukemia drug Blincyto works similarly, though Younes noted that TNB-486 was designed “to optimize the therapeutic window of T-cell activation,” a reference to the range of doses that might be effective without substantial side effects.
The acquisition, meanwhile, is the third so far of an entity originally named Teneobio, a privately-held Californian biotech specializing in dual-acting antibody drugs. Prior to 2021, the biotech had parlayed drugmakers’ growing interest in bispecific medicines into a list of partners including AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead’s Kite Pharma division and gene editing biotech Intellia Therapeutics. Since then, AbbVie bought a Teneobio affiliate called TeneoOne for a multiple myeloma drug the two had been developing. Amgen followed a month later with a deal for Teneobio itself.
Teneobio spun out three additional companies prior to closing its deal with Amgen, however. TeneoTwo was one of them. The other two, TeneoFour and TeneoTen, are developing medicines for inflammatory diseases and hepatitis B, respectively. They’re all owned by an entity named Ancora Biotech, which is run by former Teneobio shareholders and executives.
Ancora raised a $60 million funding round in June.