After filling its pipeline with Big Pharma-partnered antibody therapeutics, J&J darling Genmab has turned to a fellow European biotech for its latest foray into cancer immunotherapies.
Copenhagen-based Genmab is paying $54 million for three targets identified by Immatics’ Xpresident platform, as well as access to its T cell receptor discovery and engineering platform. Immatics — which is headquartered in Tuebingen, Germany and runs a subsidiary in Houston — is also in for $550 million in milestone payments and a co-promotion option.
Out-licensing proprietary targets then offering their tech to redirect and activate T cell responses to those tumor antigens hit a sweet spot for Immatics, which has a similar deal in place with Amgen worth up to $1 billion.
Genmab, meanwhile, has looked left and right for different ways to use their antibodies in cancer, from antibody-drug conjugates to checkpoint combos. The early efforts have been a mixed bag: The ADC it developed with Seattle Genetics showed promise against melanoma in preclinical studies, but the early-stage studies involving PD-L1/PD-1 drugs and daratumumab had to be scrapped by partner J&J.
The big idea here, Immatics CMO Carsten Reinhardt tells me, is to go after targets not expressed on the cell surface. After all, only 15% to 20% of all potential tumor targets can be found there; focusing on intracellular targets opens up vast possibilities. It’s a next-gen approach that promises to reach where CAR-T and previous antibody therapeutics couldn’t.
And as the targets are already identified the partners will start right away to find binders and, eventually, bispecific molecules that could tackle them, Reinhardt says. On their end, it will be two to three years before they will have a TCR ready for human studies.
At that point, Genmab will pick up everything from development and manufacturing to commercialization.
“This collaboration with Immatics gives us the opportunity to combine our unique technologies and expertise to create differentiated novel next-generation therapies,” Genmab CEO Jan van de Winkel said in a statement. “We very much look forward to this exciting partnership in the field of cancer immunotherapy.”
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