Deals

AstraZeneca lines up a $20M installment plan to launch a new oncology collaboration with microbiome player Seres

AstraZeneca has set up a research deal with Seres Therapeutics, agreeing to pay the biotech $20 million in installment payments for their collaboration on exploring how the gut can influence the efficacy of immuno-oncology drugs like their PD-L1 Imfinzi.

Eric Shaff, CEO (Seres)

The pharma giant — which hasn’t been doing a lot of early-stage research collaborations like this — is also handing over some research subsidies to cover the cost of the work at the Cambridge, MA-based biotech $MCRB.

Investors liked the sound of that, driving up Seres’ shares — still suffering since a major clinical setback close to 3 years ago — by 25% by the bell. Seres’ new CEO just executed a significant reorganization, laying off the CSO and 30% of the staff.

MedImmune vet Jean-Charles Soria, who now reports to AstraZeneca oncology chief Jose Baselga in the newly revamped R&D organization, says I/O research is still only focused on “the tip of the iceberg.” After the initial wave of 6 PD-1/L1 drugs hit the market, the leaders in the field have been scrambling to find ways to gain a leg up on the competition. And there have been a number of new forays using the microbiome in search of enhanced immune responses to cancer.

Jean-Charles Soria (AstraZeneca)

In addition to looking for new ways to identify which patients are most likely to respond, coming up with a more compelling patient profile, the partners also plan to explore the potential of combos, possibly using Seres SER-401 along with AstraZeneca’s I/O drugs.

AstraZeneca had been a latecomer to the checkpoint party, hoping that a matchup of Imfinzi with their CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab would provide a way to leapfrog the leaders. That hasn’t worked so far, but AstraZeneca has made important inroads in the market with Imfinza as a monotherapy. That’s what they’re hoping to build on now.


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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
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