Bayer drops checkpoint regulator from Compugen pact

Bayer sign
Bayer is continuing to develop its CGEN-15001T program.

Bayer has jettisoned one of the two immune checkpoint regulators it picked up from Compugen. The decision follows a review that foresaw bleak prospects for the program and little reason to invest in its development.

Compugen and Bayer began working together on the target, CGEN-15022, in 2013. Back then, the expression of the B7/CD28-like immune checkpoint target by liver, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancers and potential for drugs against it to inhibit T-cell activation prompted Bayer to task Compugen with taking the program through preclinical before handing over the reins. But having guided the program through those steps, Bayer is no longer so enamored with its potential.

Bayer returned the rights to CGEN-15022 to Compugen after an assessment of drug candidates against the target showed “its potential to serve as a key immune checkpoint for the treatment of cancer immunotherapy may be limited.”

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The decision is a blow to Compugen, which was eligible to receive as much as $500 million under the terms of the deal it stuck with Bayer. The loss of some of that anticipated income caused Compugen’s stock to trade down 11% before the market opened. But, while it is curtains for CGEN-15022, Compugen is still working with Bayer on another target, CGEN-15001T. 

Bayer came out to bat for Compugen following news of its decision on CGEN-15022. 

“We look forward to continuing the development of our CGEN-15001T program and are discussing potential future collaborative projects in the area of immuno-oncology with Compugen,” Bayer’s Bertolt Kreft, Ph.D., said in a statement. 

CGEN-15001T, like CGEN-15022, is a B7/CD28-like immune checkpoint target. The difference is Bayer has retained its interest in the target as preclinical data have accrued. Bayer is now gearing up to take a candidate against the target into the clinic. 

The drug is progressing against a backdrop of difficulties for the drug development shop at Bayer. The failure of antibody-drug conjugate anetumab ravtansine to move the needle in a pivotal trial has left Bayer’s blockbuster forecasts for the mesothelioma drug looking shaky.