After $270M round, BioNTech pens TCR pact with Scancell

Research
The collaboration will initially focus on TCRs specific for the epitopes that underpin Scancell’s lead Moditope candidate, vimentin and enolase. (Image: AstraZeneca)

BioNTech has followed up on its $270 million megaround by striking a deal with Scancell. The alliance gives BioNTech the chance to work with Scancell to discover and characterize T cell receptors (TCRs) and an option to form a license agreement covering the resulting therapeutics.

Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech made its name in mRNA but, supported by the $270 million round it wrapped up last week, it is expanding its R&D pipeline to other cancer-fighting modalities. The deal with Scancell gives BioNTech access to a platform that can support the broadening of the scope of its pipeline.

Scancell is bringing Moditope to the collaboration. The technology is designed to overcome tumors’ immunosuppressive mechanisms without the use of checkpoint inhibitors. If the approach works as Scancell hopes, it will enable the T-cell mediated destruction of tumor cells that would otherwise have been invisible to the immune system.

An internal Scancell candidate derived from the platform has advanced as far as optimization studies designed to support a first-in-human trial. In reaching that point, Scancell has generated data that have encouraged it and now BioNTech.

“Preclinical data from our Moditope platform has shown unprecedented anti-tumor effects can be delivered without the need for checkpoint inhibition,” Scancell CSO Lindy Durrant, Ph.D., said in a statement. The preclinical efficacy was seen in advanced tumors.

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Scancell will now collaborate with BioNTech on projects that benefit from Moditope and its German partner’s TCR cloning and characterization capabilities. The collaboration will initially focus on TCRs specific for the epitopes that underpin Scancell’s lead Moditope candidate, vimentin and enolase.

Once those studies are done, BioNTech will have the option to form a license agreement covering the development of therapies specific to the epitopes. Those therapies could slot into the ambitious, multimodality anti-cancer pipeline BioNTech is in the middle of building.