Genentech pays $200M for Vaccibody's phase 1 cancer vaccine

Roche Genentech
Genentech's agreement with Vaccibody tasks it with wrapping up phase 1b development of VB10.NEO. (Roche)

Genentech has secured a global license to neoantigen cancer vaccines developed by Vaccibody. The Roche subsidiary is set to hand over $200 million in upfront and near-term payments to access the fruits of Vaccibody’s efforts to overcome the limitations of cancer vaccines.

Personalized cancer vaccines have consistently underwhelmed in the clinic but continue to generate interest. Genentech committed up to $310 million in upfront and near-term milestones to work with BioNTech on mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines in 2016. An early candidate to emerge from the collaboration failed to impress earlier this year but Genentech remains keen on the concept.

Now, Genentech’s interest in neoantigens has manifested in a deal with Vaccibody. The agreement sees Genentech commit to $200 million in upfront and near-term payments, plus up to $515 million in more distant milestones, for the exclusive global rights to DNA-based individualized neoantigen cancer vaccines based on VB10.NEO across multiple tumor types. 

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VB10.NEO is a clinical-phase candidate that Vaccibody creates by identifying neoepitopes specific to a patient’s tumour. Late last year, Vaccibody linked the vaccine to a 50% response rate in a small trial of people with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and other tumor types, adding weight to claims it has cracked the cancer vaccine conundrum. 

"It is widely believed that the clinical use of cancer vaccines has been limited by the ability to efficiently present the antigens to the immune system and the limited insight into what constitutes clinically relevant antigens. Vaccibody's immunotherapy platform has been shown to address those challenges with preclinical and clinical data indicating induction of unique CD4+ and importantly CD8+ tumor-specific T cell responses against selected antigens essential for clinical responses," Agnete Fredriksen, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Vaccibody, said in a statement.

Genentech has seen enough promise in the early-phase data to secure the license to VB10.NEO. The agreement tasks Vaccibody with wrapping up phase 1b development of VB10.NEO, beyond which Genentech will take full control and bear all the costs. 

With Genentech taking over one of its two clinical-phase assets, Vaccibody is planning to use money generated through the deal to expand its pipeline. Vaccibody is testing its other vaccine, VB10.16, in cervical cancer vaccine patients in collaboration with Roche. Building on the early successes of its two lead programs, Vaccibody plans to develop new shared antigen cancer vaccines and infectious disease candidates. 

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