GSK has outlined a deal to send two cancer immunotherapies back to biotechnology company Adaptimmune Therapeutics, a move that follows the larger drugmaker’s recent decision to stop investing in cell and gene therapy research.
Adaptimmune announced last October that it would regain rights to the two programs, each of which are in development for solid tumors. On Tuesday, the biotech revealed terms of the agreement. It will get about $37 million in cash from GSK, and receive all materials, data and trial sponsorship responsibilities related to the drugs later this year.
The agreement will formally end a partnership between GSK and Adaptimmune that dates back to 2014. That year, the two began working on a program called lete-cel, which works by genetically modifying cells to detect NY-ESO, a protein expressed on several types of tumors.
NY-ESO became a key target of GSK in the ensuing years. It licensed lete-cel from Adaptimmune in 2017, and joined up with cell therapy developer Lyell Immunopharma on a newer type of NY-ESO treatment two years later. GSK had a third deal, with Immunocore, to develop an antibody drug targeting the protein.
But GSK has since backed off amid a broader retreat from cell therapy. It ended the Immunocore deal amidst a “portfolio prioritization” in 2021, and terminated its alliances with Adaptimmune and Lyell in October 2022. A regulatory filing from Lyell at the time indicated GSK “did not observe the anticipated level of clinical activity” in a lete-cel study in non-small cell lung cancer, which, in turn, created “new uncertainty” about its own NY-ESO development. (GSK severed ties with another cell therapy developer, Immatics, in November.)
By ending the Adaptimmune alliance, GSK forfeited rights to both the NY-ESO treatment as well as a second, preclinical cell therapy aimed at a protein target called PRAME. In a statement Tuesday, Adaptimmune said it’ll “continue to evaluate the emerging data” for the NY-ESO program to “determine next steps.” Later this year, the company expects to ask regulators for clearance to begin human testing of the PRAME cell therapy.
Adaptimmune restructured in November and announced plans to merge with fellow cell therapy maker TCR2 Therapeutics last month. It expects to file for approval of what could be its first marketed treatment, for synovial sarcoma, by the middle of the year.
Now trading at a little over $1 per share, Adaptimmune’s stock has lost most of its value since debuting on the Nasdaq stock exchange in 2015.