Coherus axes TIGIT program, walking away from Junshi candidate 2 years after making $35M bet

Coherus BioSciences wants to get off the TIGIT rollercoaster. Less than two years after paying $35 million to exercise its option, the biotech has told Junshi Biosciences it is dropping the TIGIT asset CHS-006 from the collaboration. 

On a quarterly results conference call in November, Rosh Dias, M.D., chief medical officer at Coherus, told investors further enrollment in a phase 1/2a TIGIT clinical trial was on hold. The pause, which followed completion of recruitment of the initial cohort in the U.S., was intended to allow Coherus to “analyze the data from the ongoing patient pool and assess evolving data from competitor trials,” Dias said.

The aim was to “complete a robust portfolio prioritization.” Two months later, Coherus has decided there is no place in its portfolio for CHS-006, a drug candidate that it paid $35 million to license in March 2022. The biotech secured an option on CHS-006 as part of a broader deal worth $150 million upfront in 2021. 

Coherus’ decision to cut its losses follows a series of events that have caused confidence in TIGIT, a target that was once a hot property, to ebb and flow. Roche has ridden out setbacks to emerge with evidence that its candidate may improve overall survival in first-line non-small cell lung cancer. Gilead and Merck & Co. have had their own ups and downs, while Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis have axed candidates.

Coherus began assessing whether TIGIT should be part of its future after closing the $65 million takeover of Surface Oncology. The deal added antibodies against IL-27 and CCR8 to Coherus’ oncology pipeline, giving it more ways to spend the $131.1 million it had at the end of September.  

Other aspects of the Junshi deal are unaffected by the decision to return rights to CHS-006. The partners won FDA approval for an anti-PD-1 antibody, Loqtorzi, last year. Priced at a 20% discount to Keytruda, the drug launched in the U.S. last week.