AstraZeneca Deepens Cancer Cell Therapy Portfolio with Neogene Buyout (Updated)

AstraZeneca_Editorial_Roland Magnusson

Roland Magnusson/Getty Images

AstraZeneca and Neogene Therapeutics have entered into a definitive acquisition agreement in which AstraZeneca will buy all outstanding equity in the smaller company.  

The deal aims to advance T-cell receptor (TCR) therapies against solid tumors, California-based Neogene announced Tuesday.

AstraZeneca will make an upfront initial payment of $200 million. The remaining $120 million will be paid contingent upon certain milestones. 

Once the acquisition is completed, Neogene will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca, with footprints in Amsterdam and Santa Monica, California. The companies expect the deal to close early next year.

Neogene uses a proprietary TCR discovery and cell engineering platform that detects these intracellular targets to produce highly specific T-cell receptor therapeutics. The entire process is based on the patient’s tumor biopsy, allowing for a fully individualized treatment approach.

Brent Pheiffenberger_NeogeneBrent Pfeiffenberger, chief operating officer at Neogene, told BioSpace the company's TCR therapy approach is "based on TIL-derived TCRs that are isolated from fresh-frozen tumor tissue collected minimally by needle biopsy." 

The platform is then employed for the discovery of antigen-specific TCRs, which enable the identification of both HLA Class I and Class II antigen-specific TCRs with high sensitivity and scale, he continued.

Neogene then uses its in-house manufacturing process to deliver multi-specific TCR therapies using proprietary next-generation engineering tools.   

Pfeiffenberger said Neogene’s expertise in TCR-Ts and proprietary TCR discovery, development and manufacturing platform will complement AstraZeneca’s emerging pipeline of armored CAR-T and off-the-shelf cell therapies.

In a statement, Susan Galbraith, executive vice president of oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, said the Neogene buyout will bring “innovative science and leading experts in T-cell receptor biology” into the company’s fold.

Oncology Onslaught

Tuesday’s Neogene acquisition marks the latest development in AstraZeneca’s offensive against solid tumors.

Most recently, the British-Swiss pharma claimed a victory against non-small cell lung cancer when the FDA approved its Imfinzi (durvalumab)/Imjudo (tremelimumab) combo with platinum-based chemotherapy for patients with metastatic disease. 

A few weeks earlier, the same drug combo was greenlit for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma.

In late October, AstraZeneca also scored two wins against breast cancer. Data from a Phase III trial indicated that capivasertib, when used with Faslodex (fulvestrant), can boost survival in two different types of the disease. 

This year has also seen increased investments from AstraZeneca aimed at deepening its oncology pipeline. In April, the company inked a $25 million deal with Harbour Biomed for an exclusive global right to develop, manufacture and commercialize HBM7022, a bispecific antibody for oncology targets. 

Three months later, in July, the company dropped $1.27 billion to acquire TeneoTwo. In the process, AstraZeneca gained access to TNB-486, a CD19/CD3 T-cell engager being tested on relapsed and refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

AstraZeneca opened 2022 with a $1.5 billion agreement with Scorpion Therapeutics to develop up to three precision small molecule drugs against hard-to-treat cancer proteins.

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