In search for a 'universal T cell engager', Immunocore inks deal with Gilead-backed Gadeta
Immunocore, which became the first company to win approval for a TCR therapy earlier this year, has penned a deal with gamma delta T cell specialist Gadeta to develop treatments for solid tumors, starting with colorectal cancer.
Immunocore R&D head David Berman told Endpoints News the deal is part of the company’s efforts to develop a “universal T cell engager.” TCR therapies made from typical T cells, like Immunocore’s TCR therapy Kimmtrak, are restricted to patients with certain HLA types, a kind of marker that helps the body separate friend and foe. Kimmtrak, for instance, is indicated only for patients with unresectable or metastatic uveal melanoma, a rare form of cancer that happens in the eye, who have the tissue type HLA-A*02:01, one of the more common HLA types which by Berman’s estimate includes around 40-50% of the population.
But unlike typical T cells, gamma delta T cells have unique receptors and can recognize and kill cells independent of HLA type. So a T cell therapy made from gamma delta T cells wouldn’t be restricted to a certain patient population.
Immunocore and Gadeta will work together to research a gamma delta TCR in Gadeta’s portfolio, which recognizes a specific “alarm signal” on a cancer cell’s surface. Berman said that Gadeta identified the gamma delta T cell from a patient, but the two companies have to first “deconvolute exactly what the target is” for that gamma delta T cell. And because of that, Berman hesitated to put an exact timeline on the development of a therapy out of this collaboration.
But based on that work, Immunocore has the option to develop a gamma delta version of a bispecific T cell engager, or BiTE.
While Berman declined to disclose financial details in an interview with Endpoints, he said the structure of the deal was like most others. Gadeta is eligible for an upfront option and downstream research milestone payments. And if Immunocore goes for the exclusive license on a treatment developed from the collaboration, Gadeta can get development and commercial milestone payments as well as royalties on the therapy.
Gadeta, based in the Netherlands, is already developing a therapy dubbed GDT201 based on that signal, which it will retain ownership of in the deal. It is planning a Phase I trial for that candidate, which it says is slated to start in the second half of 2023. Gadeta’s method engineers normal T cells with the receptor of a gamma delta T cell. Its lead candidate, GDT002, is already in clinical trials for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma and ovarian cancer, according to Gadeta’s website.
Aside from Gadeta, there are a handful of other biotechs working with gamma delta T cells, including IN8bio, GammaDelta, and Adicet Bio.
Immunocore has previously worked on developing a universal T cell engager as well, through funding from a tuberculosis research project from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That research focused on a nontraditional HLA molecule known as HLA-E, which is recognized by natural killer cells.