Boston-Based Biotech Inks Immuno-Oncology Pact With Seattle Genetics


Shares of Pieris Pharmaceuticals have climbed more than 10 percent this morning after the company announced it inked a multi-program immuno-oncology collaboration with Seattle Genetics.

The two companies have teamed up to develop multiple targeted bispecific immuno-oncology treatments for solid tumors and blood cancers using Pieris’ proprietary Anticalin platform. The companies will develop novel Antibody-Anticalin fusion proteins. When fused to a tumor-targeting antibody, Pieris said its Anticalin proteins can activate the immune system preferentially in the tumor microenvironment. Anticalin proteins are developed from lipocalins, small human proteins that naturally bind, store and transport a wide spectrum of molecules.

While no specific target was identified in the announcement, the companies said through Seattle Genetics work in the field of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) it has a “substantial portfolio of cancer targets and tumor-specific monoclonal antibodies from which programs will be selected for the collaboration.” The bispecific drug candidates in this alliance will be designed to enable the patient's immune cells to specifically attack tumors, the companies added.

Dennis Benjamin, head of research at Seattle Genetics, said the company’s position as an industry leader in ADCs allows them to “bring deep expertise in targeted cancer therapy development” to this collaboration with Pieris.

“Pieris' Anticalin technology and Antibody-Anticalin bispecific approach are intended to overcome the limitations of currently available immuno-oncology products. This partnership leverages our cancer targets and tumor-specific antibodies to explore multiple novel bispecific combinations, with the goal of developing targeted therapies that improve outcomes for people with cancer,” Benjamin said in a statement.

Pieris Chief Executive Officer Stephen S. Yoder said his company is looking forward to broadening its bispecific pipeline through the collaboration with Seattle Genetics. He said the deal with Seattle Genetics is “in alignment with our goal to create a respiratory- and oncology-focused commercial company."

Under terms of the agreement, Pieris grabbed $30 million in upfront monies. When royalties and milestones are factored in, the company could earn up to $1.2 billion.

This is the fourth significant deal Pieris has struck within the last year. In February 2017, the company forged a licensing deal with Japan-based ASKA Pharmaceutical Co. for PRS-080 for use in treating anemia. That deal will be worth about $83 million when milestones and royalties are factored in. Then in May 2017, the company struck a deal with pharma giant AstraZeneca to push Pieris’ preclinical respiratory drug candidate PRS-060 into the clinic. PRS-060 is an Anticalin against interleukin-4 receptor alpha (IL-4Ra) with potential in moderate to severe asthma. In addition to the work with PRS-060, Pieris and AstraZeneca will collaborate to progress four additional novel Anticalins against undisclosed targets for respiratory disease.

Also in 2017, Pieris signed a broad collaborative deal focused on immuno-oncology. The lead program is Pieris’ PRS-332, a potential best-in-class PD-1-targeting bispecific checkpoint inhibitor.

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