GSK pays out £30M to Adaptimmune as cell therapy work officially wraps up

GSK is paying Adaptimmune 30 million pounds sterling ($37.3 million) to wipe its hands of two programs, one of which includes lete-cel, an asset the U.K. pharma at one point touted as its leading cell therapy. 

Last October, GSK axed its NY-ESO-1 T-cell receptor (TCR) pact for lete-cel with Lyell that was worth over $1 billion in biobucks, moving the program over to T-cell therapy-focused Adaptimmune, where lete-cel originated. Now, the Big Pharma is giving back all rights and materials related to the NY-ESO program to Adaptimmune, alongside a cell therapy program in preclinical development dubbed PRAME.

Sponsorship for the midstage clinical trial IGNYTE-ESO will also be transferred back to Adaptimmune in the third quarter of this year. The phase 2 study is assessing lete-cel alongside two chemotherapies in patients with NY-ESO-1 and/or LAGE-1a positive solid tumors. The Big Pharma is also handing over responsibility for a related long-term follow-up trial. All other clinical trials tied to the NY-ESO program have already wrapped up enrollment and are completed or will be soon by GSK.  

For the trouble of transferring the clinical trials, GSK is doling out the 30 million pound payment to Adaptimmune, consisting of an upfront fee plus milestones.

The first-gen candidate lete-cel was at one point GSK’s lead cell therapy candidate, though the Big Pharma appeared to reassess its broader work on NY-ESO-1 after lackluster data from a phase 1/2 non-small cell lung cancer trial prompted an early end to enrollment. After that, GSK ended its Lyell partnership, which aimed to use Lyell's tech to improve the depth and durability of clinical responses. 

The Big Pharma then gave the program back to Adaptimmune, a biotech that struck up a partnership with GSK in 2014. Back then, the companies agreed to look at up to five programs, with the first being NY-ESO, which GSK exclusively licensed three years later. The PRAME program also sprung from this collaboration.

Adaptimmune plans to have the targeted TCR T-cell therapy ready for an IND submission later this year, which would allow the program to be assessed in human trials if approved by the FDA.