Hunting for cash, Jounce sells remaining stake in tumor antibody to partner Gilead for $67M

While the tough funding environment has forced many biotechs to lay off staff or pare back their pipelines, Jounce has at least found a way to make some easy money in the process. The biotech has sold its remaining stake in an anti-CCR8 antibody dubbed GS-1811 to Gilead for $67 million.

“This transaction allows us to extend our runway and remain focused on delivering meaningful and long-lasting benefits to cancer patients,” Jounce CEO Richard Murray, Ph.D., said in a Dec. 27 release. “It was important for Jounce at this time to bolster our cash resources, given challenges in capital markets for biotech companies.”

The deal may offer short-term rewards for Jounce, but it isn’t painless for the biotech, which will be surrendering up to $645 million in potential milestones as well as hefty royalty payments should GS-1811 prove a success. The therapy, which is designed to selectively deplete immunosuppressive tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells, is currently in phase 1 development for patients with solid tumors.

Gilead first signed a deal to collaborate on GS-1811, then known as JTX-1811, back in September 2020. JTX-1811 is designed to bind to CCR8, a chemokine receptor enriched on TITR cells, in order to kill the cells through an enhanced mechanism. 

Having previously handed over $85 million upfront to go in with Jounce on developing GS-1811 back in September 2020, the latest deal will give Gilead sole responsibility for all further research, development and commercialization globally.

Despite letting go of GS-1811, Jounce still has three candidates in the clinic. Vopratelimab, a T cell costimulator agonist, is in a phase 2 trial as a second line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer patients, while patients with solid tumors are being enrolled in a phase 2 trial of the PD-1 inhibitor pimivalimab. Rounding out the pack is JTX-8064, a humanized IgG4 monoclonal antibody that is being investigated in phase 2 trials as a monotherapy and in combination with pimivalimab for solid tumors.

It's not hard to see why Jounce is hungry for funds. The biotech had $130 million in cash and investments as of the end of September, a major drop on the $220 million it entered 2022 with. The biotech blamed the fall in reserves on operating expenses throughout the year.

It can’t have helped matters that vopratelimab’s future seemed uncertain last year, with the company considering its options after a combination of the therapy and pimivalimab didn’t significantly reduce tumor size in a subset of non-small cell lung cancer patients compared to pimivalimab alone.