Merck partners up on T-cell tech platform in $374M autoimmune deal; Turnstone taps BMS vet Mike Burgess for top R&D role
→ Back at the beginning of the year, the team at Cue Biopharma brought its A round up to $26 million after building a platform tech that revolves around its work orchestrating T cell responses. Anyone familiar with the field will recognize an important strategy here that involves amping up an immune response (cancer, for one) or dismantling it (autoimmune diseases). Today, giant Merck — which has an R&D team that is built to progress its PD-1 drug Keytruda — has chosen to partner up with the new-wave Cambridge, MA company. Interestingly, Merck’s interest is on the autoimmune side of things. We have no idea what the upfront is — Merck likes to be quiet about the cash it spends — but R&D chief Roger Perlmutter has engineered a string of small licensing deals and acquisitions to augment their pipeline operations. The milestones total up to $374 million. This is all we hear about the focus: “The multi-year collaboration will encompass multiple disease targets across certain primary disease indication areas.” Now you know.
→ Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Mike Burgess is leaving Big Pharma behind and becoming president of research and development at Canada’s Turnstone Biologics, where he will lead all R&D activities. The role builds upon Burgess’ experience at BMS heading translational research and cancer development, after stints at Roche and Eli Lilly. In a statement, Burgess expressed confidence in the oncolytic contender’s two-in-one cancer vaccine, which got a boost from AbbVie just last month: “Turnstone Biologics is uniquely positioned to deliver breakthrough viral-based immunotherapies for patients with cancer. … I look forward to working closely with Turnstone’s experienced team and founders, who are driven by science and innovation, to bring these breakthrough medicines to patients.”
→ Europe has granted marketing authorization for GlaxoSmithKline’s $GSK Trelegy Ellipta, a three-in-one combo for COPD they developed with Innoviva $INVA, following an EMA recommendation (and FDA approval) in September. The duo expects to launch the once-daily inhaler in Europe by the end of 2017 — an important step as GSK looks to get ahead of rivals in a market expected to grow dramatically in the next decade.