Ramping back up on oncology, GSK takes an option on Adaptimmune’s TCR cancer drug

New GSK CEO Emma Walmsley is going for it in oncology.

Looking to steer the pharma giant back toward a pipeline that can stir some real excitement among investors, the GSK chief has decided to pick up an exclusive option on Adaptimmune’s NY-ESO SPEAR T-cell therapy program.

Adaptimmune $ADAP is in line now for $61 million during the transition period — part for the option and part in milestones. GSK gets full rights covering the development and hoped for commercialization of the TCR therapeutic, a tech cousin to the CAR-Ts now making their debut.

Adaptimmune’s shares surged 10% on the news.

GSK $GSK was persuaded to go all the way on this deal after looking over proof-of-concept data for synovial sarcoma.

Axel Hoos

But the timing is also important. GSK once had a busy oncology group, until it opted to do a big swap with Novartis — exchanging late-stage cancer drugs for a portfolio of vaccines. That preceded a long dry spell in the clinic for GSK’s pharma R&D group, though GSK’s Axel Hoos continued to move forward in cancer with early-stage therapies. Now Hoos can step up on a closely-watched drug as Walmsley points the company back into play in developing late-stage cancer therapies.

This TCR tech revolves around reengineering T-cell receptors so that they can recognize cancer proteins, triggering an assault on solid and liquid tumors.

Hoos, GSK’s SVP of oncology R&D, said:

The aim of GSK’s R&D is to develop medicines with transformational potential for patients.  We have seen compelling data for the NY-ESO investigational cell therapy in synovial sarcoma and, following this option exercise, we will capitalize on our in-house Cell and Gene Therapy capabilities to support the development program for GSK3377794. We will continue to explore the potential for this novel cell therapy in multiple tumor types, and in combination with other cancer therapies.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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