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MedImmune, Immunocore announce ImmTAC agreement
OXFORD, United Kingdom—AstraZeneca has announced that MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, has begun a cancer research collaboration and licensing agreement with Immunocore Limited, a privately held biotechnology company focused on discovering and developing novel T cell receptor-based drugs for diseases with high unmet need. The agreement will make use of Immunocore’s Immune Mobilizing Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology.
Per the terms of the agreement, Immunocore and MedImmune will collaborate on the generation of ImmTACs against selected cancer targets, and AstraZeneca and MedImmune will have the right to further develop and commercialize resulting ImmTAC products. Immunocore will be paid $20 million up front per program, and will also be eligible to receive up to $300 million in development and commercial milestone payments for each target program, as well as tiered royalties on sales.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with MedImmune, a leader in the development of biotherapeutics with particular strengths in oncology,” James Noble, CEO of Immunocore, commented in a statement. “We look forward to working together to develop ImmTAC therapies against cancer targets and address the unmet medical needs of many thousands of cancer patients.”
Immunocore’s ImmTAC technology re-directs the immune system to recognize and kill diseased cells, and has demonstrated excellent tolerability in clinic as well as anti-tumor activity in vivo. ImmTACs, as noted on the company’s website, “are innovative bi-functional proteins that combine high-affinity monoclonal T cell receptor targeting technology with a clinically validated, highly potent therapeutic mechanism of action. ImmTACs target HLA-presented peptides generated from all types of protein, including … intracellular antigens, which are inaccessible to conventional antibodies.”
ImmTACs are bi-specific biologics that consist of a soluble, high-affinity T cell receptor fused to an anti-CD2 scFv-based effector function, and any T cells that come into contact with an ImmTAC cell “is automatically redirected to kill the cancer cell, regardless of the T cell’s native antigen specificity.” These ImmTACs have potential both as anti-cancer and anti-viral agents.
“We look forward to collaborating with Immunocore on this promising area of cancer research that has the potential to further enhance our immune-mediated cancer therapy portfolio for patients with a range of cancer types,” Dr. Bahija Jallal, executive vice president for MedImmune, said in a press release. “Immunocore has a strong record with its innovative ImmTAC technology, and presents a significant opportunity for us to achieve treatment breakthroughs in the area of immune-mediated cancer therapies.”
This is one of several agreements with a large pharmaceutical company that Immunocore has announced in the past year, all of which are centered on its ImmTAC technology. In June 2013, the company initiated a strategic alliance with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to discover and develop multiple novel cancer targets through use of the ImmTAC platform. In July of the same year, Immunocore inked a research and licensing agreement with GlaxoSmithKline to discover ImmTACs against multiple novel targets that cannot be addressed with antibody-based technologies.