- Pfizer has set up a research collaboration with Kineta Immuno-Oncology to develop small molecule agonists targeting an immunostimulatory pathway called RIG-I, seeking new ways to boost anti-tumor immune responses.
- Through the deal, Pfizer gets access to Kineta's lead RIG-I discovery program and related compounds in exchange for $15 million upfront. If all goes well, however, Kineta stands to earn quite a bit more: Pfizer has lined up $505 million in R&D and commercial milestone payments.
- Pfizer will fund research done by Kineta for the first three years and then will take over development and commercialization.
Rapid clinical progress in immuno-oncology has spurred big pharma to ink scores of R&D pacts searching for new pathways to spur the immune system's attack on cancer. Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb have led the way, but others like Pfizer are active partners as well.
In the past few months, AbbVie exercised its option to license a preclinical candidate from Dutch company Argenx, which also inked a deal with Johnson & Johnson. AstraZeneca, which has its own checkpoint inhibitor in Imfinzi (durvalumab), has also invested, buying a 9.8% stake in Innate Pharma to acquire a slate of immuno-oncology drugs.
Those smaller deals fall well short, though, of the $1.85 billion in cash and equity Bristol-Myers put up to secure partial rights to Nektar Therapeutics' NKTR-214. The deal could be worth as much as $3.6 billion in total.
Pfizer has been reaching out, too, and last month signed up to a partnership with Nektar Therapeutics to explore combination cancer treatments in prostate and head and neck cancer.
Pfizer's latest target, Kineta Immuno-Oncology, has been exploring the role of the RIG-I pathway in immunostimulation. While this pathway has been studied in infectious disease, the idea that it can be used to turn "cold" tumors "hot" is a more recent one.
Kineta's focus isn't just in cancer, signing an option and license deal earlier this year with Roche over alpha9/alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) antagonists for chronic neuropathic pain.