GSK's cell therapy R&D lead jumps ship to partner Immatics

GlaxoSmithKline GSK House in Brentford, UK
(GlaxoSmithKline)

Just a few months after GlaxoSmithKline penned a $50 million deal with biotech Immatics for its T-cell work, the executive running the Big Pharma’s cancer cell therapy unit is upping sticks to join the U.S.-European startup.

Cedrik Britten, M.D., becomes the biotech’s new chief medical officer to help run its adoptive cell therapy and T-cell receptor (TCR) bispecifics platform, which is focused on various solid tumors.

This platform has seen it pen a series of collaborations in recent years, leveraging its pool of around 200 targets to land deals with Amgen, Celgene and Genmab.  

One of the more recent partners has been GSK, Britten’s former employer, where he had been vice president and head of the oncology cell therapy research unit for five years, joining the U.K. Big Pharma after serving at Germany’s BioNTech.

Back in February, GSK struck a deal to access two of Immatics' TCR therapeutics, seeing it nab $50 million (€46 million) upfront with $550 million in milestones for TCRs against two solid tumor targets identified by Immatics. 

At the time, Immatics CEO Harpreet Singh told FierceBiotech that the way he sees it, the deals are testament to the potential for TCR therapies to expand the list of solid tumors that are amenable to treatment using immunotherapies.

“The target space that we can tap into with our platforms and technologies is approximately three to four times bigger than the CAR-T space. What we can do with TCRs is tap into intracellular targets, which are not accessible to CAR-Ts and antibodies,” Singh said.

Now, he has GSK’s leading cell therapy exec to help push on in this space.

This change-up has caused some shuffles in the company and one exit. Carsten Reinhardt, M.D., Ph.D., the current CMO, will take on the newly created role of chief development officer to lead Immatics’ product development strategy.

Carsten will also continue to lead the TCR bispecifics platform and pipeline as well as the immunology and translational development functions at Immatics.

But this means there is no room for ex-Astellas exec Stephen Eck, M.D., Ph.D., who had been its CMO in Houston and will exit the biotech at the end of June but stay on for a few weeks to “to support the transition.” Eck left Fiercer 15 winner Aravive Biologics as its CEO in 2018 to take up the CMO role at Immatics.