- China-based Innovent Biologics has bought non-exclusive rights to cell therapy and bispecific antibody technology from Swiss pharma Roche for use in cancer research. The deal gives Roche the option to develop and commercialize outside of China any successful drug that emerges.
- The deal involves Roche technology for "universal" CAR-T cell therapies, which wouldn't require the re-engineering of a patient's own immune cells that makes Novartis' Kymriah and Gilead's Yescarta so logistically complex.
- Although Roche is an industry leader in oncology, it has not pushed forward with cell therapies as Novartis and Gilead have. However, it has partnered with Massachusetts-based SQZ Biotech and Washington-based Adaptive Biotechnologies to develop cell therapies designed to stimulate an immune response to tumor cells.
Roche has been engaged in some adjacent research to CAR-T treatment, testing its cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq in combination with Yescarta and winning approval for its autoimmune drug Actemra to treat a common side effect of CAR-T drugs. Yet the oncology leader has kept quiet about any work it's done in the CAR-T field directly.
Today's deal with Innovent was one of the few signs that it has invested resources into CAR-T research. The Chinese partner disclosed that it would have non-exclusive rights to Roche technologies to help develop universal CAR-T cells.
A Roche spokesperson did not respond to a request for more detail about the technology covered by the collaboration.
Roche hasn't completely ignored personalized cancer therapies, however. Thanks to a partnership with German group BioNTech, it is developing two experimental cancer vaccines that aim to spur an immune response to proteins unique to patients' tumors.
The other technology covered by the Innovent collaboration is bispecific antibodies, a field where Roche has been more publicly active. These drugs bind with both immune cells and cancer cells in order to trigger a tumor-destroying interaction.
Roche has advanced bispecific antibodies called mosunetuzumab and RG6026 into Phase 1 research in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Outside of cancer, Roche sells Hemlibra, a bispecific antibody for the treatment of hemophilia A.
Innovent did not disclose how much it paid Roche, but stated the Swiss company could exercise an option to develop and commercialize outside of China for up to $140 million in upfront fees. Additional milestone payments totaling nearly $2 billion would be due if all products are successfully developed.