AbbVie, Scripps expand partnership, fortify focus on cancer drugs
Scripps and AbbVie go way back. Research conducted in the lab of Scripps scientist Richard Lerner led to the discovery of Humira. The antibody, approved by the FDA in 2002 and sold by AbbVie, went on to become the world’s bestselling treatment. In 2018, the drugmaker and the non-profit organization signed a pact focused on developing cancer treatments — and now, the scope of that partnership has broadened to encompass a range of diseases, including immunological and neurological conditions.
In the summer of last year, the nonprofit drug discovery division of Scripps Research — Calibr — tied up with AbbVie to collaborate on developing T-cell therapies aimed primarily at cancer, including solid tumors.
The effort to use CAR-T technology to combat solid tumors has been plagued by issues of toxicity — but Scripps-led research employing the use of “switchable” CAR-T cells is designed to make the oncological assault more universal, by shepherding CAR-T cells to hone in on the molecular targets of interest using an antibody-based “switch” — in essence allowing for the use of CAR-T tech across several types of hematological and solid tumor indications. AbbVie paid an undisclosed upfront license fee for exclusive access to Calibr’s CAR-T platform for a term of up to four years.
The expanded pact — for which financial details have also not been disclosed — involves Scripps presenting a certain number of preclinical programs of mutual interest in the fields of oncology, immunology, neurology, and fibrosis per year for inclusion into the partnership. The agreement also features a sharper focus on cancer, with the two partners working together to advance CD3 bispecifics against oncology targets nominated by AbbVie.
As agreed previously, Scripps is in charge of preclinical R&D — and in some cases early-stage trials — while AbbVie has the option to take the experimental drugs further and commercialize.
Scripps, which has struggled financially in recent years due to smaller grants from the National Institutes of Health, swallowed Calibr (California Institute for Biomedical Research) in 2016 in a bid to speed the development of new medicines with the hope that commercial success could go some way in replenishing its coffers.