Adaptimmune pens backloaded deal to access T-cell tech

Adaptimmune has struck a deal to access Noile-Immune Biotech’s technology for improving cancer cell therapies. The collaboration, which could cost Adaptimmune $312 million all told, is expected to move a candidate into human testing in 2021. 

Noile-Immune is a Japanese chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) player built on technology developed by Yamaguchi University’s Koji Tamada. In mice, CAR-T cells engineered using the technology to express IL-7 and CCL19 performed better than conventional CAR-T therapies and were associated with increased infiltration of dendritic cells and T cells into tumors.

Buoyed by the early-stage findings, Noile-Immune is continuing to research the application of the technology, dubbed Prime, to CAR-T cells. The deal with Adaptimmune expands use of Prime to the Spear T cells in development at the transatlantic biotech. 

“This agreement ... will enable us to generate next‑generation Spear T-cells secreting both IL-7 and CCL19, which may improve proliferation and trafficking of not only our engineered Spear T-cells, but also the patient’s own T-cells into solid tumors. This increased T-cell proliferation and trafficking may enhance anti-tumor activity for cancer patients,” Karen Miller, senior vice president of pipeline research at Adaptimmune, said in a statement.

Adaptimmune will pay $2.5 million upfront in relation to an exclusive license on the first target. If all the programs hit all their milestones, Adaptimmune will pay out $312 million, plus mid-single-digit royalties on net sales. The outlay gives Adaptimmune exclusive rights to develop and commercialize products resulting from the collaboration. 

With the project forecast to remain in preclinical until 2021, the collaboration represents a long-term bet for a company with near-term problems. Adaptimmune’s stock price has fallen by more than 80% over the past year as clinical readouts have raised doubts about the safety and efficacy of its assets. Doubts about the data have been compounded by a series of departures from Adaptimmune’s C-suite.