Unusually, the agreement means that both companies could be set for a windfall due to the structure of the co-development and co-commercialization partnership.
Adaptimmune Therapeutics could receive a total payment of $897m (€806m) for its part in the deal, which includes an upfront payment of $50m, $7.5m per year for research and the rest locked away in milestone payments.
Astellas has the opportunity to make back some of this down payment, but only if Adaptimmune takes forward a drug candidate that the former company opts against developing – at which point, Astellas could receive up to $552.5m in milestone payments.
The two companies are targeting the development of stem-cell derived allogeneic T-cell therapies to patients with cancer, potentially developing up to three targets. In particular, Adaptimmune will utilize its target identification and validate capabilities to generate target-specific T-cell receptors (TCRs), chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), and HLA-independent TCRS.
Astellas will contribute its donor cell and gene editing platform that it acquired through its buyout of Universal Cells. In addition, the Japanese drugmaker will provide the funds for research up until completion of a Phase I trial for each candidate.
After which point, both companies will have the option to progress with co-development and co-commercialization of the candidate, or to allow independent development of the candidate.
Astellas will also reserve the right to develop two targets independently.
The advantages of allogeneic treatments
Helen Tayton-Martin, chief business officer at Adaptimmune, spoke to us about the potential benefit of developing allogeneic treatments.
She explained, “The first single advantage is that the products are already available frozen, and can be available almost immediately to be thawed and administered when they need them, rather than going through the cycle of apheresis, product production, shipping and re-infusion.”
“A second advantage is the greater consistency of the products we will manufacture, as [they’re] not dependent on individual patient cells,” Tayton-Martin added.
When asked about the problems current commercial CAR-T treatments have faced in meeting specification, Tayton-Martin stated that she is confident that the company’s integrated manufacturing capability will not face similar challenges to products already on the market.
Regardless of how far the potential product candidates progress, Tayton-Martin confirmed that the company now has the capital to fund it through to Q1 2021.
Another day, another advanced therapeutic deal
For Astellas, the deal marks another effort to develop its rapidly growing pipeline of potential advanced therapeutic candidates. The deal prior to this came only last week, in the form of a $665m deal for CAR-T specialist Xyphos.
Last year saw similar activity for Astellas, with a $3bn deal for gene therapy specialist Audentes announced as the year came to a close, adding on previous smaller deals to build its portfolio in the cell and gene space.