- Beigene, a fast-growing drugmaker based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Beijing, will partner with Shoreline Biosciences to develop cell therapies for cancer, expanding its research beyond the small molecule and antibody drugs with which it's had success.
- Under a deal announced Wednesday, Beigene and Shoreline will work together to design cancer treatments based on what are known as natural killer cells, one of several types of immune defenders that biotech companies are using to attack tumors.
- Beigene will pay $45 million to Shoreline, which could earn more if certain milestones in testing are achieved. Per deal terms, Beigene will also get an option to acquire an equity stake in Shoreline as part of the company's next fundraising.
Beigene has quickly become a force in cancer drug development, earning approvals in the U.S. and China for its targeted therapy Brukinsa and immunotherapy tislelizumab. The biotech is developing a slate of small molecule and antibody drugs aimed at several well-known targets, too.
In late 2019, Amgen agreed to pay nearly $3 billion for a 20% stake in Beigene. Notably, Beigene agreed to help Amgen develop as many as 20 experimental drugs and chip in funding as well, a sign of Amgen's confidence in the company's research skills.
So far, all of the drugs Beigene has advanced into clinical testing have been small molecules or antibodies. The Shoreline deal will expand the company's work to include cell therapy, an area that's growing quickly to encompass multiple types of treatment and technologies.
"We are excited to collaborate with Shoreline as BeiGene looks to expand our pipeline of transformative medicines from small molecule and antibody therapeutics to off-the-shelf cell therapies, a compelling area of research that has been primarily out of reach for many of the world’s patients," said Beigene CEO John V. Oyler in a statement.
Shoreline specializes in natural killer cell therapies, which it derives from induced pluripotent stem cells. In April, the company raised $43 million in funding from a group of nine investors, including Gilead's cell therapy division Kite Pharma.
The biotech was founded by Dan Kaufman, a cell therapy specialist at the University of California San Diego, along with Steven Holtzman, William Sandborn and Kleanthis Xanthopoulos.
NK cell therapies are drawing more and more attention, as drugmakers experiment with potentially safer and more convenient options than the logistically complex CAR-T cell treatments that have won approvals in lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. Fate Therapeutics, Nkarta Therapeutics and Artiva Biotherapeutics are among the biotech companies leading the way, while larger drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Takeda are investing in research as well.