Deals, R&D

Cambridge star Magenta teams up with Heidelberg on bone marrow R&D pact that includes $334M in potential milestones

High-flying Cambridge upstart Magenta Therapeutic has inked an exclusive deal with a German biotech to work on drugs that might improve bone marrow transplants for patients.

Magenta is teaming up with Heidelberg Pharma, combining its stem cell platform with Heidelberg’s proprietary ATAC (Antibody Targeted Amanitin Conjugates) platform. The duo will apply their tech across up to four targets, with the hope of developing antibody drug conjugates.

Heidelberg is getting upfront tech access and exclusivity fees and payments for research support, although the details weren’t disclosed. We do know that Magenta could pay up to $334 million in milestone payments, should the company exercise all its target options and if all milestones are met.

The goal of the partnership is to find antibodies that would better prepare patients for bone marrow transplants. As it stands now, patients must be “conditioned” before receiving transplants to prevent rejection of the incoming stem cells. Conditioning involves removing all existing stem cells in the bone barrow and diseased cells using what Magenta calls highly toxic agents and procedures like radiation that kill cells in a non-specific way.

Magenta scientists have shown that antibodies which recognize stem cells linked to drugs can be used to selectively remove stem cells and diseased cells.

Michael Cooke

“There is a significant need for targeted conditioning regimens for bone marrow transplant, and this is a key area of focus for Magenta,” said Magenta’s CSO Michael Cooke in a statement. “Amanitin is one of the promising toxins we are exploring in our targeted conditioning programs, and our partnership with Heidelberg Pharma will allow us to fully evaluate the potential of this payload.”

Magenta, with its lofty goals of improving stem cell transplantation, has been making a splash in the big Cambridge/Boston hub, gathering $98.5 million in venture cash from some marquee investors that include GV — the venture group formerly known as Google Ventures — and in-licensing a mid-stage drug that Novartis thinks highly of for enhancing cord blood stem cells as a treatment. Just last month, the company recruited Big Pharma R&D exec John Davis, formerly of Pfizer, to serve as Magenta’s new chief medical officer.


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