BioNTech snaps up struggling MabVax's lead asset, labs, eyeing San Diego R&D site

BioNTech's headquarters
BioNTech's headquarters (BioNTech)

German mRNA biotech BioNTech has bought up MabVax Therapeutics’ cancer drug assets alongside much of its infrastructure and labs with the aim of building up a new research hub in San Diego and spreading its geographic reach.  

BioNTech is already at work on immunotherapies against cancer and other diseases, but now adds a series of early-stage antibody assets to its pipeline from MabVax.

How much did BioNTech pay? Neither is saying right now, but the deal includes MabVax's lead asset, known as MVT-5873, which is in phase 1 tests for tough-to-treat pancreatic cancer, as well as other preclinical antibody candidates.

MVT-5873 has been tested in 35 patients with “initial positive interim data” out last February, according to the company. This med works as a fully human IgG1 monoclonal antibody targeting sialyl Lewis A (sLea), an epitope expressed in pancreatic and other gastrointestinal cancers that plays a role in how tumors stick to organs and how they spread to other parts of the body.

Late last year, struggling MabVax put its assets and labs on the market after running out of cash.

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“BioNTech’s vision is to identify and provide the best therapeutic options for each individual cancer patient. To make this possible, we are developing and integrating complementary technologies and drug modalities into our overall portfolio of treatment approaches,” said Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech.

“MabVax Therapeutics has developed an antibody with a novel mode of action in a disease indication that complements our pipeline expansion plans. This clinical-stage antibody together with the other pre-clinical assets that we have acquired from MabVax Therapeutics enhance our antibody portfolio, which also benefits from our ongoing collaboration with Genmab and the acquisition of MAB Discovery earlier this year.”

As part of the buy, it also gets rights to its labs, and wants to create a new R&D site in in San Diego. “The location is advantageous for BioNTech’s planned U.S.-based clinical trials and will further support production of the company’s investigational treatments,” it said.

Earlier this year, BioNTech also bought MAB Discovery’s antibody generation unit. In an echo of today’s deal, the takeover, financial details of which were also not disclosed, gave BioNTech ownership of all the “assets, employees and proprietary know-how for mAb generation from MAB.”

MAB, meanwhile, kept hold of all the rights to its proprietary preclinical development program and existing service agreements with third parties.

The biotech, which is taking on the likes of U.S. giant Moderna, also had a good start to the year, gaining €80 million ($91 million) in an investment boost from Sanofi; this came a year after BioNTech raised $270 million and five months after Pfizer bought a stake in the biotech as part of a deal worth $120 million in upfront and near-term payments.