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TARRYTOWN, N.Y. & MENLO PARK, Calif.—This summer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Adicet Bio Inc. announced a collaboration and licensing agreement to develop next-generation engineered immune cell therapeutics with plans to engineer immune cells with fully human chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and T cell receptors (TCRs) to target disease-specific cell surface antigens.
Precipitated by the companies’ mutual respect, complementary technologies, expertise and capabilities and the mutual drive to generate breakthrough immune cell products for different cancer indications, the intent of this collaboration is to generate multiple clinical product candidates for various hematological and solid tumor cancers. Per the new agreement, the companies will work together to identify and validate appropriate targets and develop a pipeline of engineered immune-cell therapeutics for the selected targets.
For Adicet, this means a $25-million upfront payment, as well as research funding over the course of a five-year research term with an option to participate in the development and commercialization on these potential products or be entitled to royalty payments by Regeneron. Regeneron is able to obtain development and commercial rights for a certain number of the product candidates, and will retain the right to leverage targeting molecules it developed under the collaboration in its other monoclonal and bispecific antibody programs, including those that are part of the Sanofi immuno-oncology collaboration. Immune-cell therapy product candidates developed and commercialized by Adicet under the agreement will be subject to payment of royalties to Regeneron.
“Adicet’s immune-cell technology, developed under the leadership of pioneering biotech executive Aya Jakobovits, complements our growing suite of immuno-oncology approaches and therapeutics,” commented Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, chief scientific officer of Regeneron and president of Regeneron Laboratories. “Our proprietary technology platforms give us the ability to develop optimized monoclonal and bispecific antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates and now CARs and TCRs for engineered immune-cell therapeutics, opening the door to many different combination approaches to treat cancer patients.”
T cells engineered with tumor targeting molecules, such as CARs and TCRs, are emerging as a potential approach to restore the immune system’s ability to recognize and eradicate tumors, but there are limitations to current methods of developing therapies that utilize T cells, as most rely on ex-vivo manipulation of the patient’s own immune cells. This results in process variability and logistical challenges. While current engineered product candidates have shown promise in certain blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, they have yet to provide the same level of results in solid tumors. The cell platform being developed by Adicet and novel targeting approaches to be pursued by the collaborators are aimed at improving access to and killing of solid tumor cells.
Adicet is engaged in the development of cutting-edge immunotherapies for cancer and other disease indications, with a focus on novel universal immune cell therapies. Dr. Aya Jakobovits, president and CEO of Adicet, tells DDNews, “Adicet brings its novel immune cell platform technology and technologies related to identification and utilization of tumor-specific intracellular targets for generation of novel targeting molecules. Joining forces with Regeneron will enhance Adicet’s pipeline of novel engineered immune cell products for different cancer indications.”
“Regeneron has a long history of successful R&D based upon our proprietary VelociSuite technology platforms. One such technology enables the creation and validation of fully human T cell receptors, which we believe will allow for more sophisticated and effective binding components in new therapeutics,” says Dr. Michael Aberman, senior vice president of strategy and investor relations. “Aya Jakobovits has a track record in developing and progressing innovative technologies and products, including products in the immune cell therapy area as the founding CEO of Kite Pharma. We believe her expertise paired with our existing technology platforms and R&D prowess will be a powerful combination.”
“We are always keeping our eyes out for new and interesting technologies, and obviously we’ve been aware of the potential of immune cell therapy for some time. We’ve known Aya for a long time as well, and were excited to explore our prospects in this space together,” he adds.
While neither company was ready to comment on a timeline, both were optimistic about the future of this collaboration.
“At Regeneron, our strategy is essentially to go where the science leads us, and this often means exploring multiple approaches at once. This is certainly true in immuno-oncology, where we see great potential in many technologies and mechanisms, including checkpoint inhibitors, bispecific antibodies and engineered immune cell products like CAR-Ts. We’ve made a number of research collaborations across these areas that complement our core Veloci-technologies. It’s likely that there will be unique applications for each and benefits in combination therapies, so we’re excited about working with Aya and the Adicet team to explore this particular area,” Aberman stated.