- Roche will pay $250 million in cash to take over privately held Good Therapeutics and gain access to a program designed to produce more selective cancer drugs.
- The deal, announced Wednesday, includes rights to Good Therapeutics’ program focused on interleukin-2, or IL-2, as well as to its platform technology around that target. The Swiss drugmaker has promised additional payments if certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones are met.
- Following the sale, the Good Therapeutics team plans to create a new company called Bonum Therapeutics and continue their work in immuno-oncology. The Seattle-based startup previously raised $30 million in three rounds of financing from 2019 to 2021, drawing investors including Roche Venture Fund, according to news stories linked on its website.
Roche’s move reflects the continued interest in a type of cancer therapy that’s shown mixed results. The general goal is to harness the potentially significant cancer-fighting power of IL-2, a protein that can boost the immune system, while minimizing the side effects seen with an older medicine called Proleukin.
Good Therapeutics describes its experimental drugs as “conditionally active.” They come with a sensor component that activates the therapy only when it’s in proximity to T cells expressing another protein called PD-1, in theory cutting down on side effects. The company currently has five drug candidates; none have been tested in humans yet and only the first has advanced into preclinical development.
The idea of a better IL-2 drug has sparked a flurry of biotech launches and acquisitions over the last five years. In 2018, Bristol Myers paid $1.85 billion upfront in a cash and equity deal for rights to an early-stage drug developed by Nektar Therapeutics.
But that partnership fell apart earlier this year after the therapy failed in a major study of melanoma patients. Deprived of the potential for future milestone payments that might have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, Nektar in April said it would lay off 70% of its workers and focus on an inflammatory disease drug in Phase 2 testing.
In the Good Therapeutics statement, Roche executive James Sabry said the startup’s program “nicely complements” his company’s own efforts in the field. Roche says its ultimate goal is to design cancer therapies that are tailored for individual patients.