BeiGene dives in on natural killer cells with discovery pact for small biotech's stem cell-based platform
China’s BeiGene has been busy on the oncology front in recent years, looking to keep up with the pack with one late-stage PD-1 on the way to a filing and a slate of small deals fleshing out the pipeline. Now, with its eyes on the horizon, the drugmaker has snared an early-stage pact for a clutch of next-gen cell therapies.
BeiGene will shell out $45 million in cash and an undisclosed amount in future biobucks and royalties for up to four of Shoreline Biosciences’ induced pluripotent stem cell-based natural killer therapies for cancer, the partners said Wednesday.
The multi-year pact will initially target four potential therapies with the option to expand in future years, the companies said. BeiGene will lead global clinical development with Shoreline picking up commercial-scale manufacturing duties. In return for its investment, BeiGene will hold global commercial rights to any approved therapy with Shoreline reserving the option for US and Canadian rights for two of those targets.
BeiGene also reserved the option to buy up an equity stake in Shoreline in the biotech’s next financing round, the company said.
“We are excited to collaborate with Shoreline as BeiGene looks to expand our pipeline of transformative medicines from small molecule and antibody therapeutics to off-the-shelf cell therapies, a compelling area of research that has been primarily out of reach for many of the world’s patients,” CEO John Oyler said in a statement.
Shoreline specializes in off-the-shelf advanced cancer immunotherapies, including iPSC NK cells and macrophages for various tumors. Where the San Diego-based company hopes to set itself apart in that rapidly growing field is in manufacturing, where it maintains a “strategic manufacturing relationship” with UC San Diego’s Advanced Cell Therapy Laboratory. The biotech is backed by a slew of big-name investors, headlined by Gilead’s Kite and Boxer Capital.
The push into next-gen cell therapies comes as China’s BeiGene looks to reinvent itself around oncology R&D, most notably in its ongoing race to bring its own PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor tislelizumab to market. That drug was out-licensed to Novartis in February, bringing a Big Pharma partner on board amid late-stage readouts.
In May, the partners read out topline results showing the drug met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival in first-line recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer as a combination with chemo. The drug topped chemotherapy alone at a statistically significant rate, BeiGene said, potentially setting up a Chinese approval in the indication.
Meanwhile, despite its stated intent to expand beyond antibodies, BeiGene has looked to grow in that space as well. In February, the company signed off on 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. That move was all part of BeiGene’s play to take more shots on goal to build its oncology brand, SVP of external innovations Lusong Luo told Endpoints News at the time.
“The common denominator is we are trying to bring external innovations in, and also bring our innovations out to other geographical regions,” Luo said.