Tessa Therapeutics Forges $120 Million Joint Venture to Develop Cell Therapies in China

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Singapore-based Tessa Therapeutics announced a joint venture with China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (CSGKC) to leverage Tessa’s cell therapies for development of cancer therapies in China.

Tessa said the strategic priorities for the collaboration will focus on launching clinical trials in China using the company’s cell therapies. The collaboration will target the most prevalent cancers in China. The joint venture will be the sole licensee of Tessa Therapeutics' cell therapies for research, development and commercialization. The two companies will build up “robust operational capabilities” and add leading clinical trial sites in China into Tessa's global clinical trial network.

Tessa and CSGKC will invest a combined total of $120 million in the joint venture, with $80 million coming from GSGKC and the other $40 million from Tessa. The financing will be conducted in two stages. In the first stage, CSGKC will contribute US$40 million for 13% stake in the joint venture, while Tessa will contribute $20 million and its technology license rights for China. Tessa will hold the remaining 87% stake in the joint venture, the company said in its announcement.

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Andrew Khoo, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tessa Therapeutics, noted that China is an important market for the company and will increase accessibility of the company’s cell therapies across the globe.

“The joint venture is an important milestone in Tessa's China strategy and will draw from Tessa's international clinical execution capability and cell therapy platform technologies. I firmly believe that having China as a core part of Tessa's global clinical development strategy will accelerate our cell therapies to market,” Khoo said in a statement.

The announcement of the GSGKC venture comes hard on the heels of Tessa’s positive ‘proof-of-concept’ data from the preclinical study of TT16, a first-of-its-kind combination immunotherapy that integrates Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy and oncolytic adenovirus expressing immunomodulatory molecules for the treatment of Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2)-positive solid tumors. In the preclinical study, HER2-specific CAR T anti-tumor activity was evaluated in HER2-positive human solid tumor animal models, the company said. The therapy consists of a two-step process, in which the models were first injected with a binary oncolytic adenovirus followed by the infusion of HER2-CAR T cells. The combination therapy showed durable responses in the various tumor models.

In April, Tessa and Merck teamed up to evaluate Tessa's armored human papillomavirus-specific T cell (HPVST) therapy, or TT12, in combination with Merck’s vaunted anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda. The therapies will be combined in patients with recurrent or metastatic HPV 16 and 18-positive cervical cancer. Tessa will conduct a multi-center Phase Ib/II trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combination therapy.

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