BioPharma, Pharma

Roche bets $300M on Adaptimmune tech for off-the-shelf cell therapies for cancer

Roche is partnering with Adaptimmune Therapeutics to develop allogeneic cell therapies based on Adaptimmune’s technology. In addition to these “off-the-shelf” products, the partners will also develop a personalized allogeneic cell therapy designed specifically for a patient’s cancer.


Roche’s Genentech division is broadening its reach in cell therapy through a research alliance with clinical-stage Adaptimmune Therapeutics, a company that has technology that could overcome some challenges and limitations of treatments that are fashioned from a patient’s own immune cells.

Genentech is paying Adaptimmune $150 million up front to begin the partnership, plus another $150 million over the next five years, unless the agreement is terminated sooner. The agreement comes with milestones that weren’t specified. But research payments, as well as the achievement of development, regulatory, and commercial milestones, could bring Adaptimmune more than $3 billion in additional cash.

The cell therapies currently available are made in a lengthy, multi-step process that requires harvesting a patient’s T cells, engineering those cells in a lab, and reinfusing the cells into the patient. Oxfordshire, U.K.-based Adaptimmune produces T cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The company’s platform uses what it calls “selective engineering” to remove proteins on the surface of a T cell that could spark an immune response. Adaptimmune also adds T cell receptors that bind to a cancer target. This technology produces allogeneic cell therapies, “off-the-shelf” treatments that overcome the time and expense of making a cell therapy from a patient’s own cells or from donor cells.

The partnership has two parts. The first focuses on developing allogeneic T-cell therapies for up to five cancer targets. The second component covers the development of a “personalized allogeneic cell therapy” in which a T-cell product is designed specifically for a patient’s cancer. For both of the parts of the partnership, Adaptimmune is responsible for developing the cell therapy candidates from its iPSC platform. Those cells will use T cell receptors from Genentech, except in the case of the personalized therapy, which will use a TCR isolated from the patient. Genentech will be responsible for clinical development, and, if approved, commercialization of these therapies.

“We believe allogeneic cell therapies could be a game-changing approach for developing personalized therapy platforms based on individual cancer patients’ unique needs,” James Sabry, Roche’s global head of pharma partnering, said in a prepared statement. “This partnership, which combines Adaptimmune’s allogeneic platform with Genentech’s expertise in developing personalized therapies, complements our other efforts to discover and develop personalized cell therapies.

sponsored content

A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Under the agreement, Adaptimmune will earn tiered royalties on net sales of any commercialized products, but it could get more. The deal gives Adaptimmune an option to share in the U.S. development of the off-the-shelf products. If Adaptimmune exercises that option, profits and costs will be split equally between the two companies. The U.K. biotech would still earn regulatory and sales-based milestone payments, plus royalties on sales outside of the U.S.

Adaptimmune has ongoing cell therapy alliances with GlaxoSmithKline and Astellas. Roche’s cell therapy partners include SQZ Biotechnologies.

Photo: Giuseppe Aresu/Bloomberg, via Getty Images