Pharma Companies in Deal-Making Mode This Week

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Multiple pharmaceutical companies struck large licensing deals with one another this week. Here's a look. 

Pfizer's Busy Week

Pfizer is in deal-making mode this week. The company struck oncology deals with Pyxis Oncology to develop two antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) candidates and also entered into a three-way deal with Exelixis and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to develop a treatment for locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma.

In the Pyxis deal, Pfizer licensed two innovative ADC candidates dubbed PYX-201 and PYX-203. Pfizer also licensed its ADC platform, including various payload classes, linker technology and site-specific conjugation techniques for the future development of additional ADCs to Pyxis. Pfizer will also continue to support the development and advancement of this portfolio through an equity investment made by Pfizer Ventures, the companies said this morning.

PYX-201 is a first-in-class non-internalizing ADC that targets a tumor-restricted antigen that is overexpressed in several solid tumor types to selectively kill tumor cells while enhancing a robust anti-cancer immune response. PYX-203 is an ADC that targets an antigen expressed in certain hematologic malignancies. PYX-203 utilizes a highly potent DNA-damaging agent designed to reduce the potential development of drug resistance and disease relapse.

“PYX-201 and PYX-203 represent the next generation of ADCs that use innovative conjugation technologies. By combining highly specific antibodies targeting clinically validated tumor markers with established linkers and both novel and proven payloads,” Pyxis Chief Scientific Officer Ronald Herbst said in a statement.

In the three-way deal with Exelixis and Merck KGaA, the company will pair their checkpoint inhibitor Bavencio (avelumab) with XL092, Exelixis’ novel next generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor for the Phase Ib trial STELLAR-001. XL092 is an investigational, next-generation oral TKI that targets VEGF receptors, MET, AXL, MER and other kinases implicated in the growth and spread of cancer. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlit Bavencio for maintenance treatment of locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (UC) that has not progressed after first-line platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Based on the dose-escalation results, the trial has the potential to enroll up to three expansion cohorts evaluating XL092 in combination with avelumab in metastatic UC, including as maintenance therapy, in patients who have progressed following treatment with an ICI, and in patients previously treated with platinum-containing chemotherapy, Exelixis said this morning.

“Although several therapies are now available to treat bladder cancers, the prognosis for patients with advanced disease remains poor and more options are needed. Evaluating how XL092 may positively impact care when paired with immunotherapy is central to our goal of improving therapeutic outcomes for patients with this and other difficult-to-treat cancers,” Exelixis Chief Medical Officer Gisela Schwab said in a statement.


Pfizer isn’t the only company to announce new deals today. FUJIFILM Cellular Dynamics, Inc. licensed its human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) technology to Sana Biotechnology for the development of commercial cell therapies. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Sana is committed to the development of engineered cells as medicines that can be manufactured at scale and supplied to patients globally,” Stacey Ma, executive vice president, technical operations of Sana said in a statement. “FUJIFILM Cellular Dynamics is a long-standing innovative leader in this field, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to combine their expertise in GMP-grade iPSC cell lines with our investment in differentiating and manufacturing cells at scale for patients across a number of diseases.”

GlaxoSmithKline and Boston Pharma

Also this morning, Boston Pharma and GlaxoSmithKline struck a new licensing deal that builds on a previous deal struck three years ago. Boston Pharma will license two new programs from GSK, a monoclonal antibody and a small molecule inhibitor.

The first asset in the deal is GSK3903371, a monoclonal antibody targeting the Interleukin-1 Receptor Accessory Protein, a tumor-associated antigen driving tumor growth and immunosuppression. The second is GSK3502421, an orally available, small molecule inhibitor for potential neurological disorders that targets Receptor Interacting Serine/Threonine Kinase 1, a key component of the TNF-driven inflammation and necroptosis pathway.

Under the agreement, Boston Pharmaceuticals will be responsible for further development of select programs through proof-of-concept. GSK will have the option to reacquire each program following those studies.

“This new agreement validates Boston Pharmaceuticals as a trusted development partner with whom pharmaceutical companies can collaborate,” Robert Armstrong, chief executive officer of Boston Pharmaceuticals said in a statement. “GSK has been an excellent partner and we look forward to advancing these pre-Phase II assets into and through the clinic to evaluate their potential to improve patient lives.”

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