10 Immuno-Oncology Deals Worth Talking About

Immunotherapy cells illustration

Immuno-oncology has become a key lynchpin in the pipelines of many pharmaceutical companies. The global cancer immunotherapy market is expected to more than double over the next eight years to $126.9 billion by 2026.

With that kind of stake, it’s no wonder companies large and small across the industry are teaming up to develop therapies for patients and grab a slice of the market share. GEN put together its top 10 list of immuno-oncology deals ranked by dollar value.

Celgene/Jounce Therapeutics – In 2016, Jounce Therapeutics and Celgene inked a deal valued at $2.5 billion to develop JTX-2011, a monoclonal antibody that binds to and activates the Inducible T-cell CO-Stimulator (ICOS). The deal also included up to four early-stage programs that Celgene could select. Cambridge, Mass.-based Jounce is planning to release JTX-2011 clinical data at the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting next month, GEN reported. Jounce is also planning on presenting data from several more programs that are in early clinical development.

Pfizer/Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany – Pfizer and Merck KGaA have been collaborating on immunotherapy treatments since 2014. The companies struck a deal valued at about $2.85 billion to focus on the development of Bavencio (avelumab), an anti-PD-L1 antibody. Last week the companies reported a setback in the program. The companies discontinued a Phase III ovarian cancer drug trial due to several emerging factors including determining that the degree of benefit observed in the previously announced interim analysis of the JAVELIN 100 Ovarian study does not support the continuation of the trial. That isn’t the only setback the companies have experienced. IN the fall, they reported problems with an ovarian cancer treatment. The Phase III JAVELIN Ovarian 200 trial failed to meet endpoints.

Cellectis/Allogene Therapeutics – Also in 2014, Cellectis and Pfizer struck a deal to develop allogeneic CAR T-cell therapies. The deal was valued at about $2.9 billion. Last year, Pfizer entered into an asset contribution agreement with Allogene, a startup founded in 2018 by former Kite Pharma executive Arie Belldegrun, or Pfizer’s allogeneic CAR T-cell therapy portfolio, which includes 16 preclinical assets and Cellectis’ UCART19. Under terms of that agreement, Allogene will assume the strategic collaboration and license agreement with Cellectis, with exclusive rights to develop and commercialize previously defined allogeneic UCART programs directed at select targets.

Bristol-Myers Squibb/CytomX Therapeutics – In 2014, Bristol-Myers Squibb and CytomX Therapeutics inked a deal worth about $2.9 billion to discover novel therapies using CytomX’s Probody platform. As part of the original collaboration signed in May 2014 to discover, develop and commercialize Probody therapeutics, Bristol-Myers Squibb selected four oncology targets, including CTLA-4. In 2017 the partnership was expanded to include eight additional targets. Earlier this year though, BMS culled three of those, GEN reported.

Kite Pharmaceutical/Sangamo Therapeutics – In 2018, Kite Pharma, now a Gilead Sciences company, and Sangamo Therapeutics inked a deal worth more than $3.1 billion to utilize Sangamo’s zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology platform to develop next-generation ex vivo cell therapies for cancer. Sangamo’s engineered zinc finger proteins are a powerful type of gene editing. It can be used to specifically knock out a gene or add new DNA sequences into precise locations.

Bristol-Myers Squibb/Nektar Therapeutics – BMS and Nektar Therapeutics first hooked up in 2016 but the more significant collaboration between the two was forged in 2018. The $3.6 billion deal is aimed at developing and commercializing Nektar’s lead immuno-oncology program, NKTR-214. The two companies will combine NKTR-214 with BMS’ Opdivo and Yervoy to target nine tumor types in more than 20 indications. BMS will have exclusive rights to those indications that include melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, non-small cell lung cancer, bladder and triple negative breast cancer.

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GlaxoSmithKline/Merck KGaA – Earlier this year GlaxoSmithKline and Merck KGaA inked a deal worth up to $4 billion to collaborate on the development and potential commercialization of M7824, an investigational bifunctional fusion protein immunotherapy that has the potential to be a treatment for difficult-to-treat cancers including non-small cell lung and biliary tract cancers. M7824 is currently in a Phase II study to evaluate the efficacy of the experimental drug in comparison to Merck & Co.’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) as a first-line treatment in patients with PD-L1 expressing advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Genentech/Affimed Therapeutics – Genentech, a Roche company, and Germany-based Affimed forged a $4.9 billion deal to harness Affimed’s ROCK (Redirected Optimized Cell Killing) platform. This platform allows production of NK cell and T-cell-engaging tetravalent antibodies. Roche plans to use the platform to create NK cell engagers, which create antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) responses. The deal focuses on candidate products created from the ROCK platform, as well as multiple undisclosed solid and hematologic tumor targets.

Merck & Company/Eisai – Last year Merck & Company and Tokyo-based Eisai signed a strategic collaboration deal worth $5.7 billion to develop and commercialize Lenvima (lenvatinib mesylate) with Merck’s anti-PD-1 drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab). Lenvima, an orally available tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is currently approved as a monotherapy to treat thyroid cancer, and in combination with everolimus to treat renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that has failed previous therapy. As part of their partnership, the two companies will work together to develop endometrial cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer and melanoma, as well as other cancer types.

Merck/Ablynx – The $6.5 billion pact between these two companies was first forged in 2014 but has been updated. Ablynx is no stranger to collaborations. The company has a collaborative agreement with Sanofi valued at up to $2.8 billion. But the Merck deal is much larger. Ablynx and Merck first forged an agreement to develop 12 oncology medications based on Ablynx’s Nanobodies platform. That agreement has since been expanded to 17 therapies, GEN reported.

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