Juno Therapeutics $JUNO is adding a new approach to its BCMA strategy for multiple myeloma after forging an in-licensing deal through a trio of alliances that includes Eli Lilly.
Lilly is handing over rights on LY3039478 to Juno so it can use their gamma secretase inhibitor in the biotech’s drive to leapfrog the leaders in BCMA — an active field that has attracted the attention of bluebird/Celgene $BLUE and others.
The drug, which inhibits Notch signaling, has already been studied in hundreds of patients. The big idea here is that the drug can amp up levels of BCMA on the surface of multiple myeloma cells, leaving them as a better target for its BCMA-targeting CAR-Ts.
There are no half measures in CAR-T, so Juno is also executing deals with OncoTracker and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to nail down additional IP related to the combo approach.
Juno is in the process of mounting a major comeback bid in the CAR-T field, after Novartis $NVS and Gilead/Kite $GILD cruised past the wrecking of JCAR015, which had to be shelved after it killed a group of patients in a pivotal study. In addition to bluebird, the likely leader on BCMA with their breakthrough drug bb2121, China’s Nanjing Legend Biotech made quite a splash at the last ASCO with rival data.
Looking past the CD19 biomarker, BCMA offers one of the most promising targets in CAR-T.
Look for this in a clinical trial, coming soon.
“BCMA appears to be an important target for treating patients with multiple myeloma and Juno is dedicated to investigating novel approaches to maximize efficacy for these patients. These licenses open up an important approach to improve the activity and outcomes for CAR T cells targeted at BCMA,” said Sunil Agarwal, Juno’s president of research and development. “We plan to begin clinical trials in 2018 combining a gamma secretase inhibitor with our BCMA CAR T product candidates.”
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