This year has seen Gilead complete a lot of smaller scale deals, with the company appearing to shy away from the larger deals that saw it acquire Kite, for instance.
The strategy seems to be focused on spreading the risk across a lot more options, primarily focusing on oncology deals.
Gilead’s latest transaction follows this pattern, after it agreed to buy a $300m (€260m) stake in Tizona Therapeutics, which means it will hold a 49.9% equity interest. In addition, Gilead holds the option to acquire the remainder of the company for $1.25bn.
In terms of structure, the deal is almost identical to Gilead’s arrangement with Pionyr Immunotherapeutics – as this investment also saw the former company take a 49.9% stake and acquire the option to take over ownership.
Both deals focus on cancer immunotherapies, as the latest agreement with Tizona centers around the company’s work to develop a first-in-class immunotherapy targeting HLA-G, an immune checkpoint expressed in multiple tumor types.
Tizona plans to take the drug candidate through Phase I trials during the third quarter of this year. The company plans to evaluate the treatment both as a monotherapy and as part of a combination treatment for patients with advanced cancers.
According to the company, the HLA-G pathway is separate from that of PD-(L)1 and therefore could be used in conjunction with treatment targeting this checkpoint.
Once Tizona has readouts from the Phase I trials, Gilead will be able to exercise the option to acquire the company outright.
Scott Clarke, CEO of Tizona, outlined that the company will use the funds from the equity buyout to broaden its TTX-080 clinical program and also to advance its preclinical portfolio.
Of its preclinical programs, the company has only made TZ-040 public, though with no further details.
Tizona also has TTX-030, an anti-CD39 that is being explored alongside an anti-PD-1, that is going through Phase I/Ib clinical testing.
The potential treatment is being developed alongside AbbVie, which partnered with Tizona in January 2019 in return for an upfront fee of $100m.