Bristol Myers doubles down on Immatics with new $770M biobucks collab for solid tumor bispecific

Bristol Myers Squibb is doubling down on Immatics with $150 million upfront to get access to a preclinical bispecific targeting solid tumors.

This will be the pair's second collaboration, technically speaking. Immatics inked a deal with Celgene in August 2019 prior to its acquisition by BMS. That collaboration is focused on T-cell therapies for solid tumors and is still in the preclinical phase.

Now, BMS is putting up $150 million and could dole out up to another $770 million in biobucks to the German biotech to license, develop and commercialize a T cell-redirecting, or TCR, bispecific, the companies said Tuesday. Immatics asked German regulators last month to approve a clinical trial of the drug, dubbed IMA401, in various solid tumors that is slated to begin in the first half of next year.

Immatics retains the option to co-fund U.S. development of IMA401 in return for enhanced U.S. royalty payments and/or will co-promote the medicine in the U.S. 

The bispecific, as its name suggests, has two core goals: One binding region targets melanoma-associated antigen 4 and/or 8 (MAGEA4/8), and the other region aims to engage and activate T cells. MAGEA4/8 is prevalent in a slate of solid tumors across the lungs, head and neck, bladder and uterus, among other areas of the body.

RELATED: Celgene pays Immatics $75M to work on solid tumor cell therapies

IMA401 is the most advanced therapy in Immatics' TCR bispecific pipeline, the biotech said. These therapies have a "cell therapy-like efficacy in an off-the-shelf platform," according to BMS' Teri Foy, Ph.D., senior vice president of research and early development for immuno-oncology and cell therapy. 

In preclinical studies, IMA401 showed anti-tumor activity, according to Immatics. Under the deal, the two companies will collaborate on clinical development. 

The Big Pharma tie-up comes a month after Immatics released data on the TCR-engineered cell therapy IMA203 that showed responses in 50% of heavily pretreated patients. But many patients saw their cancer come back within weeks, which means Immatics need to improve durability to have a shot at the market.