Mer­ck makes a $773M bet on TGFβ, ac­quir­ing a three-year-old biotech

When check­point in­hibitors work, they can per­form won­ders. But for many can­cer pa­tients, in-built or ac­quired re­sis­tance to these im­munother­a­pies im­pedes their ef­fi­ca­cy. Mer­ck, the mak­er of the check­point king Keytru­da, is shelling out up to $773 mil­lion to swal­low Ti­los Ther­a­peu­tics, which is de­vel­op­ing a class of drugs de­signed to mit­i­gate check­point re­sis­tance.

Ti­los Ther­a­peu­tics, found­ed three years ago, is de­vel­op­ing an­ti-LAP an­ti­bod­ies, de­signed to treat can­cer, fi­bro­sis and au­toim­mune dis­eases by un­leash­ing the im­mune sys­tem to at­tack dis­ease. La­ten­cy-as­so­ci­at­ed pep­tide (LAP) is a pro­tein that forms a cage around the trans­form­ing growth fac­tor (TGFβ), hold­ing the po­tent cy­tokine in a la­tent state un­til it is ready to be de­ployed. TGFβ’s mis­reg­u­la­tion can re­sult in tu­mor de­vel­op­ment, and the cy­tokine is thought to play a key role in fi­brot­ic dis­eases.

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