Adaptimmune and Astellas to Co-Develop Allogenic CAR-T and TCR T-Cell Therapies
Shares of Adaptimmune have skyrocketed since the opening bell on Jan. 13. The stock closed up 200% Monday after the company announced positive results with its SPEAR-T cancer program and has continued to rise this morning after it struck a deal with Astellas Pharma.
Investors have boosted Adaptimmune’s stock another 50% in premarket trading today following the announcement of a co-development agreement with Astellas to bring new stem-cell-derived allogeneic T-cell therapies to people with cancer. The collaboration will leverage Adaptimmune's target identification and validation capabilities for generating target-specific T-cell Receptors (TCRs), chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), and HLA-independent TCRs that recognize surface epitopes independently of the HLA profile of the tumor cell. The collaboration will also utilize Astellas’ Universal Donor Cell and Gene Editing Platform it obtained through the acquisition of Seattle-based Universal Cells. The two companies will combine their strengths and focus on up to three targets and develop T-cell therapy candidates aimed at them. These targets will exclude target-specific T-cell products in pre-clinical or clinical trials or those developed for other partners at Adaptimmune, the company said.
Helen Tayton-Martin, Adaptimmune’s chief business officer and co-founder, said the partnership with Astellas builds upon and extends an existing collaboration focused on gene editing of iPSC cells. The new deal with Astellas could include both CAR-T and TCR T-cell approaches, and has a chance to bring in the company’s novel HLA-independent TCR (HiT) platform, Tayton-Martin said.
“It brings together highly complementary skills and expertise across the two organizations, and will enable the accelerated development of new, off-the-shelf T-cell therapy products for people with cancer,” she added in a statement.
Under current terms of the deal, Astellas will fund research up until completion of a Phase I trial for each candidate. When those Phase I trials are complete, the two companies will then determine whether to continue development together or allow one of the companies to proceed on their own under a licensing agreement. If all goes well, Adaptimmune stands to receive up to $897.5 million in payments, including a $50 million upfront payment. There are two different pay structures for Adaptimmune depending on how the assets are developed following the Phase I trials. In addition, Adaptimmune will receive research funding of up to $7.5 million per year.
Astellas will also have the right to select two targets and develop allogeneic cell therapy candidates independently. Astellas will have sole rights to develop and commercialize these products, subject to necessary licenses and the payment of milestones and royalties.
Immuno-oncology is one of Astellas’ core areas of focus. Last month, the company, along with its development partner Seattle Genetics, won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its metastatic urothelial bladder cancer treatment Padcev, a first-in-class antibody-drug conjugate. The company also boosted its IO pipeline with the late 2019 acquisition of Xyphos Biosciences. In that deal, the company gained the ACCEL (Advanced Cellular Control through Engineered Ligands) technology platform, to develop new and potentially better ways to use the immune system to destroy targeted cells throughout the body.
Naoki Okamura, who serves as both chief strategy officer and chief financial officer at Astellas, said the deal with Adaptimmune “will enable us to create new stem-cell-derived allogeneic T-cell therapies for a variety of cancers, including solid tumors, in the future. We will continue to dedicate our efforts in delivering novel treatments for diseases with high unmet medical needs, pursuing cutting-edge science and technological advances.”
For Adaptimmune, the deal with Astellas comes one day after the company announced two confirmed partial responses in a liver cancer patient and melanoma patient who were both treated with the company’s SPEAR-T platform for solid tumors. Additionally, Adaptimmune said it observed two partial responses in a patient with gastroesophageal junction cancer and one in a patient with head and neck cancer. The company said these data further confirm the potential of its SPEAR T-cell platform for patients with multiple solid tumors.