- Seattle Genetics Inc. and Pieris Pharmaceuticals Inc. will pair their respective technologies to develop new immuno-oncology treatments for solid tumors and blood cancers through a deal announced Friday.
- The companies aim to create novel, bispecific drugs consisting of an agonistic anticalin protein fused with a tumor-targeting antibody. Like other immuno-oncology treatments, the idea is that these fusions "can activate the immune system preferentially in the tumor microenvironment," according to SeaGen.
- Pieris takes home $30 million upfront, and could grab more than $1.2 billion in milestone payments and royalties on potential sales of any products resulting from the deal. In exchange, SeaGen holds the right to select up to three candidates for further development following initial R&D efforts. The West Coast biotech will then be completely in charge of advancing and commercializing two of the candidates, while Pieris can jump in on the third before a pivotal trial starts — ultimately splitting costs and profits 50/50.
Drugmakers' appetite for immuno-oncology treatments has grown veracious. CAR-T therapies, which weaponize the body's T-cells to fight cancer, are attracting huge amounts of investment, exemplified by Gilead Sciences Inc.'s $12 billion takeout of Kite Pharma Inc. in August and Celgene Corp.'s more recent $9 billion acquisition of Juno Therapeutics Inc.
Though perhaps not as flashy as CAR-T, bispecifics have found a place in the spotlight too. The drugs bind to two different proteins, meaning they can link an immune cell and a tumor cell together, killing off the latter. Manufacturing bispecifics isn't as cumbersome as CAR-T either, given the patient doesn't need their T-cells extracted and engineered.
From 2014 to 2016, Johnson & Johnson's research arm Janssen paid $200 million for access to two bispecific molecules from MacroGenics Inc. While J&J ultimately dropped one of those programs, Roche AG swooped in earlier this year with $10 million upfront and $370 million in potential milestone payments to work with MacroGenics on new bispecific molecules.
SeaGen, meanwhile, has been an avid dealmaker in the cancer and immuno-oncology spaces. The company already has partnerships in place with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Astellas Pharma Inc. and Genmab A/S — giving it a robust pipeline of drugs that could flesh out its single-product portfolio.
Late last month, SeaGen also agreed to acquire Cascadian Therapeutics Inc. in a deal valued at $614 million. The buy brings with it a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) that investigators have tested as a treatment for breast cancer and other cancers.
Pieris has been active on the deal front as well. Since early 2017, the Boston-based biotech has linked up with AstraZeneca plc and Servier Laboratories SAS.
"Pieris was the first company to bring a tumor-targeted costimulatory bispecific to patients with PRS-343, and we are looking forward to broadening our bispecific pipeline through this alliance," Stephen Yoder, CEO of Pieris, said in a Feb. 9 statement.