Immuno-oncology, Licensing

Arcus grabs US rights to a WuXi-built PD-1 as second wave of checkpoints builds

Chris Chen

West Coast upstart Arcus Biosciences has bagged its very own PD-1 antibody to take into the clinic with its immuno-oncology pipeline drugs.

Arcus turned to WuXi Biologics and its Chinese partner Harbin Gloria Pharmaceuticals for regional North American, European and Japanese rights to GLS-010. The US biotech is paying $18.5 million upfront along with a potential motherload of development and sales milestones amounting to $816 million.

In addition, Arcus signed a 3-year deal with WuXi on developing its pipeline therapies.

Discovered by WuXi under contract to Gloria, using Ligand’s transgenic rat platform tech, this is the latest in a long string of PD-(L)1 checkpoints that’s forming behind the front-5 pioneers from Merck, Bristol-Myers and others.

Just weeks ago, Celgene proved it was willing to weigh in with a major league pact when it struck a PD-1 deal with China’s BeiGene for $413 million down and about a billion dollars in milestones. In the current case, Arcus — founded by a successful team out of Flexus — is gaining a program that is currently in a Phase I study in China, underscoring the growing role that developers are playing in China in this second wave of I/O drugs.

As the biology involved in PD-(L)1 checkpoints has grown ever clearer to biopharma scientists, it seems that everyone would prefer to have their own checkpoint rather than simply combine their drugs with approved therapies like Opdivo and Keytruda, the two leaders in the field. So Incyte has its own, as does Novartis and others. Regeneron and Sanofi are eager to show they can leap in next year as they line up their own PD-1 for regulatory review.

For many, the big question now is whether the entire PD-(L)1 field will become commoditized, though front-leading developers insist that there are still plenty of ways to distinguish yourself — and make billions.

“We are pleased that our integrated platform has enabled companies such as Gloria to enter into biologics with an exciting program. We are also excited to enter into this agreement to expedite biologics development to treat patients globally,” commented Dr. Chris Chen, CEO and executive director of WuXi Biologics. “This new partnership continues to reinforce the value of our integrated service platform, the global quality WuXi Biologics commits to, and the success of our ‘follow-the-molecule strategy.


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