GSK, Immatics Biotechnologies enter $600M deal to develop T-cell therapies

The companies said Thursday that they would develop T-cell receptor therapies for cancers. Immatics, based in Germany, has several TCRs already in the clinic.

A large British drugmaker is teaming up with a biotech company in Germany to develop cell therapies for cancers.

London-based GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday that it had formed a partnership with Tuebingen, Germany-based Immatics Biotechnologies to develop T-cell receptor, or TCR therapies. The deal includes an upfront payment of about $50 million from GSK to Immatics for two initial programs and up to more than $550 million in milestone payments related to regulatory, development and commercial advances, along with potential royalties.

TCRs are one of multiple types of cell therapies and differ from the more common CAR-Ts in that they can target proteins on the insides of cancer cells rather than those expressed on the surface. Immatics received a $75 million investment last year from Celgene, which has since become part of Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“By combining Immatics’ world-leading target and TCR discovery platforms with GSK’s advanced manufacturing, development capabilities and a commitment to next-generation TCR-T technologies, both companies are joining forces to enable the development of effective novel therapies for cancer patients with high unmet medical need,” Immatics CEO Harpreet Singh said in a statement.

Immatics has several TCR therapy candidates in clinical development, according to its pipeline page. These include TCRs with targets like MAGEA4/8, MAGEA1 and PRAME, all in Phase I/II development, as well as one with multiple targets that the company is developing with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Others, also in development for solid tumors and hematological cancers, are in preclinical development.

GSK has a partnership with another company developing TCRs, London-based Adaptimmune. The two companies entered the collaboration in 2014 and expanded it in 2016, and GSK has nominated several TCRs originating at Adaptimmune for development.

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Earlier this month, a team at the University of Pennsylvania led by cell therapy pioneer Dr. Carl June showed that it was possible to use TCRs edited using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to attack sarcoma and multiple myeloma tumors in patients. All three patients’ cancers ultimately progressed, but they did not experience any cytokine release syndrome, a serious side effect commonly associated with CAR-Ts.

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