Gilead will not buy Tizona after paying $300M for the right to do so

Gilead will not buy immunotherapy biotech Tizona Therapeutics, backing out of an option that the company paid $300 million for in 2020. 

The pharma's opt-in oncology program with the biotech was absent from the company’s pipeline as of the end of 2023. Now, Gilead has confirmed in an email to Fierce Biotech that it will not opt into the deal.

Gilead invested $300 million in Tizona back in July 2020 for nearly 50% of the company and exclusive rights to buy out the remainder for up to an additional $1.25 billion. At the center of the deal was TTX-080, a novel checkpoint inhibitor targeting HLA-G, that was on the precipice of a phase 1 trial at the time the deal was announced. 

The trial has been ongoing for more than three years, testing TTX-080 as both a monotherapy and as a combo treatment with either Keytruda or Erbitux. An update to the clinical trial record posted a month ago deleted text in the description that said the study was enrolling in the dose expansion arms. 

When announced, then-Tizona CEO Scott Clarke said that the deal would help fund further TTX-080 development but also advance “our rich, first-in-class preclinical portfolio and target validation efforts.” But no new programs are listed beyond TTX-080, and the “undisclosed programs” in the pipeline remain in the discovery stage. 

As part of the Gilead deal, Tizona spun off its AbbVie-partnered antibody, TTX-030, into a separate entity. 

Large equity deals have become a staple of Gilead’s business development efforts, with at least two announced in the last year. The Foster City pharma now owns a third of Arcus after a $320 million equity investment last month. And in October 2023, Gilead bought $15.2 million in equity of Assembly Bio, representing 19.9% of outstanding shares. Subject to certain conditions, GIlead agreed to buy up to 29.9% of outstanding shares at a premium. The deal with Assembly, which included $84.8 million upfront, gives Gilead first dibs to all of Assembly’s current and future programs throughout the 12-year deal.