MD Anderson Cancer Center adds to its growing life science universe with Tesaro deal

Tesaro COO Mary Lynne Hedley

Texas is adding more eggs to its incubator as cancer biopharma Tesaro ($TSRO) has inked a deal with UT's MD Anderson Cancer Center for new immuno-oncology targets.

Waltham, MA-based Tesaro will work with the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS), at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to discover and develop small-molecule product candidates against undisclosed immuno-oncology targets.

Tesaro, a 2011 Fierce 15 company which had raised a considerable amount of cash since its launch, gained the rights to antibodies that target TIM-3 and LAG-3 as well as PD-1 back in 2014.

"We are excited to be partnering with the exceptional group of drug hunters at MD Anderson's IACS to identify drug candidates against targets we collectively believe will build upon the recognized promise of immuno-oncology for patients living with cancer," said Mary Lynne Hedley, president and COO of Tesaro.

"We intend for this partnership to expand and complement Tesaro's existing portfolio of immuno-oncology programs and we continue to believe that immuno-oncology will transform our approach to cancer therapy."

Under terms of the agreement, the company will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any small-molecule product candidates that result from this collaboration.

MD Anderson will be responsible for conducting research activities aimed at identifying clinical candidates with defined characteristics targeting certain immuno-oncology targets. In return, Tesaro will fund research, development, and commercialization expenses for this collaboration. Additional terms and exact financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Texas--and specifically Houston--is humming with life science activity, and this has been bolstered in recent months with a spate of oncology deals at MD Anderson's Houston HQ. This includes tie-ups with privately owned Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck ($MRK), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Astellas, CytomX ($CTMX) and the CAR-T-focused Cellectis ($CLLS).

The center has also dipped into entrepreneurialism on its own, earlier this year joining forces with Arch Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures to launch Codiak BioSciences, a startup with $80 million in cash and plans to dive into intercellular communication to treat cancer.

MD Anderson also recently paired up with Theraclone to establish OncoResponse, a new company focused on immuno-oncology.

And at the beginning of the month, J&J ($JNJ) opened the doors to its new Houston life science hub site at The Texas Medical Center to help incubate up to 50 startups.

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