A month after multi-billion dollar Novartis deal, BeiGene follows up with 'reverse' deal
Just over a month after striking a deal with Novartis to bring its PD-1 antibody tislelizumab stateside, China-based BeiGene is making a similar play in reverse.
On Wednesday evening, BeiGene took the wraps off a $120 million-plus deal with Boston Immune Technologies and Therapeutics to develop and commercialize their tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2) antagonist antibodies in Asia (excluding Japan), Australia and New Zealand.
The deal is part of BeiGene’s strategy to build out its oncology pipeline by bringing in external candidates, SVP of external innovations Lusong Luo told Endpoints News.
“This is a little bit different from the Novartis deal we did early on this year … and so that is kind of a reverse,” Luo said.
Rather than taking an in-house candidate abroad, the company is bringing in BITT’s lead antibody and launching it into Phase I monotherapy and combination trials with tislelizumab. The latter antibody arrived on the Chinese market among a wave of PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors in late 2019, and was the center of a multi-billion dollar Novartis deal last month.
“The common denominator is we are trying to bring external innovations in, and also bring our innovations out to other geographical regions,” Luo added.
BeiGene is putting down $16.6 million in upfront and near-term milestone payments, though Luo declined to break that figure down any further. BITT stands to make up to another $105 million in further milestones, and tiered royalties on sales in the licensed territories. And BeiGene sweetened the deal by tossing in another $4 million to BITT’s Series A.
Luo says BeiGene is interested in TNFR2 for multiple reasons, the first being that it’s “one of the most abundant kinds of markers for the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment,” and is highly expressed on regulatory T cells. It’s also a broadly expressed surface oncogene.
TNFR2 is a member of the TNF receptor superfamily — blockbuster Humira, for example, targets a different member of the family — that has been shown to proliferate tumor growth. It’s also expressed on suppressive immune cells, and has been identified as a potential driver of immune escape and resistance to the checkpoint blockade.
“BITT TNFR2 antibodies are antagonists that bind to a select region of the TNFR2 receptor for cancer and Treg inhibited growth,” BeiGene said in a statement.
The company will need to catch up with Swedish BioInvent, which unveiled its own broad anti-TNFR2 program to treat solid tumors back in 2019 and already has a candidate in Phase I. It also has another TNFR2 candidate in preclinical development.
While Luo declined to comment on BeiGene’s clinical timeline, he said they plan to launch Phase I trials “in the near future.”