Astellas teams with Adaptimmune to create CAR-T, TCR therapies

Adaptimmune’s share price rose 200% Monday on the back of news of partial responses to its T-cell therapy. (Astellas)

Astellas has teamed up with Adaptimmune to develop allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) and T-cell receptor (TCR) therapies. The agreement sees Astellas pay $50 million (€45 million) upfront and commit to many times as much in milestones to work with Adaptimmune to identify targets and develop cell therapies against them.

Through the collaboration, Adaptimmune will use its target identification and validation capabilities to help pick out up to three targets that are outside of the scope of its other projects. Astellas and Adaptimmune will then develop treatments against the targets, respectively contributing universal donor cell and cell therapy technologies. 

“This new collaboration may encompass both CAR-T and TCR t-cell approaches,” Helen Tayton-Martin, Adaptimmune’s chief business officer, said in a statement. “It brings together highly complementary skills and expertise across the two organizations, and will enable the accelerated development of new, off-the-shelf T-cell therapy products for people with cancer.”
Adaptimmune will pocket $50 million and $7.5 million a year in research funding, plus development and sales milestones that could bring the total deal value up toward $900 million. 

Astellas will fund work up to the end of phase 1. Beyond that, Astellas and Adaptimmune will decide whether to develop and commercialize an asset together or let one company take it forward alone. If only one company takes a candidate forward, the other partner will receive milestones and royalties. Astellas could receive more than $500 million if it opts out of developing any of the therapies. 

The deal tightens Adaptimmune’s ties to Universal Cells, a stem cell biotech Astellas bought in 2018. Astellas entered into the deal with Adaptimmune through its Universal Cells subsidiary, which has worked with the transatlantic cell therapy specialist on gene-edited induced pluripotent stem cell lines since 2015.

Landing the Astellas deal also provided another fillip to Adaptimmune’s share price, which rose 200% Monday on the back of news of partial responses in patients who received its T-cell therapy. The sharp stock rise provided a timely boost for Adaptimmune. 

In November, the cell therapy biotech warned investors of substantial doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern for more than one year. With its share price now up at levels last seen in the summer, Adaptimmune is better placed to raise the money needed to lessen those doubts.