JPM 2022: BioNTech builds to a Crescendo with $750M biobucks pact for immunotherapies

After signing yet another deal with COVID-19 vaccine partner Pfizer last week, BioNTech is not stopping anytime soon on the deal front. This time, the vaccine maker is partnering with Crescendo Biologics for a $40 million upfront deal to work on immunotherapies.

BioNTech will provide the upfront fee to the Cambridge, U.K.-based biotech and a potential $750 million in biobucks for immunotherapies against cancer and other undisclosed diseases. The biotech, emboldened and lined with cash from its pandemic vaccine, will choose the targets for the mRNA-based antibodies and engineered cell therapies, the company said on the first day of the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

The German biotech will also provide research funding and handle development in exchange for exclusive worldwide rights on any products that come out of the discovery collaboration, which has an initial timeline of three years.

The deal gives BioNTech access to Crescendo's "Humabody" platform, which is being used to generate multi-specific therapies. The company has developed CB213, which is not part of the deal, using the platform to target T cells expressing both PD-1 and LAG-3. Humabodies retain the binding and specificity of traditional antibodies but have a smaller size with better tumor penetration and stability, BioNTech said.

The platform is aimed at retaining the binding and specificity of traditional antibodies but utilizing a smaller size with better tumor penetration and stability, BioNTech said.

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“Crescendo’s platform provides excellent properties for exploiting novel targets and target combinations which we believe has great potential for the development of multi-specific mRNA and engineered cell-based therapies in a variety of disease areas,” said BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, M.D., in a statement.

BioNTech will join Amgen in the multi-specific game, which is a type of medicine that attacks cancer in several different ways. Several bi-specifics have been approved and are in waiting at the FDA or in clinical trials. 

This is the second deal for BioNTech in five days. The company linked arms again with its Cominarty partner Pfizer last week to work on an mRNA-based shingles vaccine. Pfizer dished out $225 million upfront and will pay up to $200 million in biobucks. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:32 a.m. ET to clarify CB213 is not part of the deal.