It has entered a multi-target research collaboration with Germany’s Medigene to develop T cell receptor (TCR) based immunotherapies against cancer. The initial term for the collaboration is three years.
BioNTech gains global development and commercialization rights to a preclinical TCR program and licenses to other Medigene technologies.
Medigene will receive about €26m (US$29.5m) in upfront cash; it will also be eligible for milestones payments.
Medigene will contribute its proprietary TCR discovery platform for the development of TCRs against multiple solid tumor targets nominated by BioNTech.
T cell therapy has become a disruptive medical innovation in the treatment of patients with cancer. Engineered TCR-modified T cells (TCR-T cells) are reprogrammed to express a TCR that can recognize specific antigens only present on tumor cells, thereby enabling a precise and potent immune response to attack a patient’s tumor.
Medigene say its automated, high throughput TCR discovery platform is designed to bypass central tolerance to yield high affinity TCRs.
“This collaboration with Medigene expands our cell therapy portfolio and TCR discovery capabilities, and further strengthens our ability to be a leader in the rapidly emerging field of engineered cell therapies,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech.
Professor Dolores Schendel, CEO and CSO of Medigene, said the partnership provides it with “meaningful financial resources” to fuel its next generation development programs targeting potentially novel tumor-specific “dark matter” antigens, and further tools to enhance T-cell-based immunotherapies.
Humbodies focused tie-up
The tie-up follows the announcement at the outset of 2022 that BioNTech was partnering with Crescendo Biologics to develop multi-specific precision immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases.
The companies outlined then how Crescendo’s proprietary, transgenic platform will be used to deliver fully human heavy-chain antibody domains (Humabody VH) against targets nominated by BioNTech.
Humabodies represent a novel class of therapeutics that retain the high-affinity binding and specificity of conventional therapeutic antibodies while providing additional advantages such as small size, enhanced tissue and tumor penetration, stability and molecular simplicity due to the lack of a light chain, note the companies.