AstraZeneca has become the third Big Biopharma to strike a deal with Immunocore to license its Immune Mobilising Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology.
After Immunocore announced Genentech and GlaxoSmithKline had signed licensing deals worth potentially $300m (€220m) for its cancer cell targeting platform in July 2013, CEO James Noble told Biopharma-Reporter.com another deal with a multinational was expected within a year.
Making good on his promise, this morning the Oxford, UK-based biotech firm announced AstraZeneca’s biologics research and development arm, MedImmune will pay a $20m upfront payment to use the ImmTAC platform to research and develop new therapies against cancer.
The technology works by using T-Cell Receptors to target peptide-antigens which all cancer cells contain instead of antibody targets, contained in only a small percentage of cancer cells, and is - as Noble both told us in July and reiterated today - unique in discovering new targets and developing new cancer drugs.
“We don’t see competition at this point from similar technologies,” he told Biopharma-Reporter.com. “Our great advantage is that we are able to address not only extracellular targets but intracellular targets too.”
As for the deal with MedImmune, the agreement is similar to that of the other two Big Biopharma, although for GSK Immunocore is also carrying out initial clinical trials.
He said: “For MedImmune our goal is to deliver preclinical candidates which MedImmune can progress into Phase I clinical trials.”
More deals to come?
According to Noble, a number of major players have shown a keen interest in the ImmTAC technology and only capacity restrictions have limited the number of deals made.
Other than the financial agreement - which could be as much as $300m for each target programme due to development and commercial milestone payments plus future royalties - we asked Noble why MedImmune was selected over other firms and whether the platform was to be licensed to any others in the near future.
“AZ/MedImmune is a strong leader in oncology and the company is developing a comprehensive portfolio in immune-mediated cancer therapies,” he said. “We believe they will make an excellent third partner for Immunocore.”
This is the third announcement from AstraZeneca this side of the New Year focusing on oncology, after a preclinical partnership with Horizon and the acquisition of a small molecule cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) programme to target cancer cells.
As for Immunocore, Noble continued: “With three partners on board we are first of all making sure we have the infrastructure to support and deliver within these collaborations. We are continuing to expand the company and are now nearing 100 people in total.”