With the $10 billion Rova-T program seemingly headed toward the cliff, AbbVie is turning to an early-stage collaboration for a longer shot at cancer drug success.
For its latest foray into the tumor microenvironment, AbbVie has partnered up Tizona Therapeutics, an MPM-founded biotech located just up the road from the oncology R&D hub that AbbVie is building at Oyster Point, South San Francisco.
The $105 million in upfront cash — in addition to an equity investment — will get AbbVie an exclusive option to license the CD39 program including TTX-030, whose IND has just scored the go-ahead from the FDA. Tizona is responsible for all the clinical work up to Phase Ib, at which point AbbVie will decide whether to take over development and future commercialization.
Inhibiting CD39, the companies say, seems to restore and bolster immune responses against tumors based on preclinical findings.
“The ATP-adenosine axis has recently emerged as a key immune regulatory switch in the tumor microenvironment (TME) by controlling the inflammatory and suppressive activities of immune cells,” they write. “CD39 is the enzyme responsible for the initial steps in the conversion of immune stimulatory extracellular ATP to immune suppressive adenosine in the TME.”
These being early days for CD39 — Innate Pharma is working on an IND for a rival program — AbbVie and Tizona are gunning for first-in-class status with clinical studies scheduled to start this quarter.
Tizona is placing this new pact, and more, in the hands of new CEO Scott Clarke, who was most recently Roche’s global head of oncology partnering and head of Asia and emerging markets partnering.
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