Merck-partnered biotech hands Roche its half-life extension tech as it pivots to immuno-oncology
It seems few can resist the revenue that can await a cancer treatment.
After over a decade extending the half-life of medicines for J&J, Genentech and other large players, Amunix is pivoting to develop elements of its platform into two approaches to immuno-oncology, one of which is an off-the-shelf alternative to CAR–T treatments. And they’re licensing a portion of the older technology to Roche for $40 million and $1.5 billion in potential milestones.
“Roche had been playing around with the tech for a tech assessment for quite a bit of time prior to my joining and they obviously like what they saw,” Angie You, Amunix’s new CEO, told Endpoints News.
Roche isn’t disclosing what drugs it will use on Amunix’s old platform, known as XTEN, for, but You said it will be for a “very circumscribed indication and a very circumscribed target.” It also won’t be in oncology. The Swiss giant had toyed with the half-life-extending platform for 4 or 5 years before recently giving Amunix word they wanted to license it, You said.
Amunix will funnel that money into their emerging immuno-oncology approach. They first pivoted over a year ago, bringing in You as a new CEO and Rich Heyman as chairman, and soon rotating out the rest of the C-suite.
That period also saw the biotech license the new immuno-oncology platform to Merck. With a similar approach to the one employed by the recently launched Werewolf Therapeutics, Amunix will try to get the body’s T cells to attack solid tumors without triggering the toxicity T cell engagement has caused in other studies. It takes the polypeptide chains it once used to extend half-lives and combines them with proteases to essentially “mask” the drugs until they reach the tumor.
“We’re solving the problem of toxicity,” You said.
Amunix limited the Roche deal so it could continue to license its older platform for other targets and indications, You said, part of an effort to continue drawing funds for the immuno-oncology effort.
“We wanted to make sure we had other deals to collaborate with big pharma,” she said.