Gilead, Merus Ink Potential $1.5B Deal for T-Cell Engagers

Pictured: Gilead's headquarters in Silicon Valley/

Pictured: Gilead’s headquarters in Silicon Valley/

Gilead Sciences is partnering with Dutch biotech Merus to find novel dual tumor-associated antigens that target tri-specific antibodies.

Pictured: Gilead sign and building in Silicon Valley/iStock, Sundry Photography

Gilead Sciences is partnering with Netherlands-based clinical-stage oncology biotech Merus to find new dual tumor-associated antigens targeting tri-specific antibodies, the companies announced Wednesday.

Under the deal, Merus will receive an upfront payment of $56 million for initial targets as well as an equity investment from Gilead of $25 million in Merus common shares. Merus has the potential to receive up to $1.5 billion in additional payments based on potential development and commercialization milestones.

The research collaboration, option, and licensing agreement will leverage Merus’s proprietary platform. According to the company, the platform can design antibodies capable of binding to three targets simultaneously.

“We have seen the successful application of bispecific antibodies as an immune-modulating modality used to treat cancer. We are now looking ahead to developing additional multispecific antibodies capable of driving robust anti-tumor immune responses with an improved efficacy and safety profile,” Flavius Martin, executive vice president of Research at Gilead, said in a statement. “We are excited to explore the potential of Merus’ differentiated Triclonics platform to discover and advance transformative new cancer therapies as we deepen our portfolio across oncology indications.”

The move comes as Gilead has been on a dealmaking path in 2024. In February, the Bay Area-based biotech announced a $4.3 billion acquisition of CymaBay Therapeutics, snapping up its lead candidate seladelpar which designed to treat the autoimmune disease primary biliary cholangitis.

“We are looking forward to working with Gilead to develop novel T-cell engager antibodies using our Triclonics technology,” Merus Chief Business Officer Hui Liu said in a statement. “We are grateful for our collaborations which represent opportunities for Merus to leverage our research capabilities to pursue innovative biology and to address significant unmet medical needs. Importantly, this collaboration represents the first for our proprietary Triclonics platform.”

The collaboration will see some competition as it looks to target the T-cell engager space. Amgen announced in October 2023 that its bispecific T-cell engager showed positive Phase II results. The tarlatamab drug was investigated in patients with small cell lung cancer with advanced disease and, had an objective response rate of 40% and hit the primary endpoint. Median progression-free survival was under five months while the median overall survival was 14.3 months.

In related news, Crossbow Therapeutics announced Tuesday that it has nominated its first development candidate, a T-cell engager.

Tyler Patchen is a staff writer at BioSpace. You can reach him at Follow him on LinkedIn.

Tyler Patchen is a staff writer at BioSpace. You can reach him at Follow him on LinkedIn.