TapImmune partnership with Big Pharma? If geography and finances are right, says CEO

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/Gajus
Getty/Gajus
TapImmune would consider a partnership deal with a major pharmaceutical firm in a non-Caucasian country, such as Japan or China, if “very compelling” from a financial standpoint, says CEO.

Florida-headquartered TapImmune – which makes novel immunotherapies for cancer – recently announced​ a merger agreement with Marker Therapeutics, a clinical-stage developer of a non-genetically engineered, multi-antigen T-cell therapy platform.

Together, the firms are working on a “potentially transformative cell therapy programme that can displace the CAR-T [chimeric antigen receptor] and TCR [T-cell receptor] approaches that have captured so much attention in the investor community,” ​said CEO Peter Hoang in an M&A conference call​ last week.

When asked if TapImmune would consider partnering with a major pharmaceutical company, Hoang told investors he would be “open” ​to the idea, if the opportunity was “very compelling” ​from a financial standpoint.

According to the CEO, geography and patient population would also be a determining factor.  

Whereby TCR therapies can be used in a small subset of patients, the combined TapImmune/Marker approach can cater to larger populations, said Hoang.

“Most TCR programmes today target [human leukocyte antigen] A2 restricted TCRs. That’s a sub-segment that comprises about 40-50% of the Caucasian population, but when you move outside of Caucasian countries to places like China and Japan, you find that the largest interlay restrictions are non-A2.”

Japan is primarily a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A24 restricted population, and China, primarily HLA-A12, he added.

However, as TapImmune’s approach is not restricted by a patient’s particular HLA restriction, “We could potentially partner with large pharma companies that are based in [Japan or China] with large patient populations in those areas…[to] deliver our therapy through that pharma partner to populations that are currently inaccessible for other TCR programmes,” ​said Hoang.

The firm would “absolutely explore” ​partnership opportunities domestically and globally, if financially attractive, he added.

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