Novartis spinout resTORbio reverse merges with T cell biotech after big PhIII failure
The end of their lead program will, it turns out, spell the end for Novartis spinout resTORbio.
Shares for the once well-funded anti-aging biotech crumbled after its lead program failed a Phase III trial last year. The company said they would shift focus to an early stage Parkinson’s candidate, but that looked like a long shot at the time, and today, the company announced they will reverse merge with Adicet Bio.
The new biotech will center around Adicet’s off-the-shelf T cell platform. Founded by former Kite Pharma CEO Aya Jakobovits and now led by AbbVie alum Anil Singhal, the company has so far raised over $130 million in an effort to build a more potent and easier to manufacture CAR-T therapy, along with several other T cell-based treatments. It’s a crowded field but Adicet has a big name partner in Regeneron. The biotech giant has spent the last few years trying to catch up fast on immuno-oncology, including by chipping in $25 million for Adicet’s Series B last year.
Adicet’s approach is based around gamma-delta T cells, versatile immune cells that are believed to play an important role in recognizing cancers and certain hard-to-see antigens. They were overlooked in the first generation of autologous CAR-T therapies because they represent only a tiny percentage of the T cells in the blood, but a long list of biotechs — including Juno Therapeutics and several companies that, like Adicet, are built solely around the cell type — are now trying to use them to develop more potent cell therapies.
The disappearance of resTORbio is a loss not only for Novartis and Puretech, who set up the company three years ago to advance a pair of mid-stage compounds, but also for an entire cellular pathway — called mTOR — that at various times has seemed a promising target for a host of diseases related to aging, including cancer. resTORbio had been trying to develop a TORC1 inhibitor, called RTB101, that would boost the patient’s immune system and reduce the rate of respiratory infections in the elderly.
They raised $85 million in an IPO off that idea in 2017 and shares soared the next year after they cleared a Phase II trial in patients with asthma. But in November a Phase III trial showed their drug actually performed worse than placebo. In two days, their stock went from a little over $9 to barely $1.
The stock was 32% — which translated to a 39 cent gain — per market. Adicet’s lead program, an off-the-shelf CAR-T targeting CD-20, is in the preclinical stage.