Nektar pens sweetened Takeda cancer drugs deal

Perennial biotech investor and backer Takeda has signed its latest collaboration with Nektar Therapeutics that will see the pair work on combo cancer approaches with NKTR-214, a CD122-biased agonist, as well as five Takeda oncology compounds.

In a release, the two companies said they would “explore the anti-cancer activity of NKTR-214 with five different targeted mechanisms in preclinical tumor models of lymphoma, melanoma and colorectal cancer."

NKTR-214 is an experimental immuno-stimulatory therapy, designed to boost specific cancer-fighting CD8+ effector T cells and natural killer (NK) cells directly in the tumor micro-environment and increase expression of PD-1 (something already targeted by a number of marketed I-O meds) on these immune cells.

Under the deal, financial details of which were not given, the companies will share costs related to the preclinical trials and each will contribute their respective compounds to the research collaboration. 

Both will also each hold on to global sales rights to their respective drugs and/or candidates.

“We look forward to collaborating with Takeda to explore a range of combination therapy approaches in models of both liquid and solid tumors,” said Jonathan Zalevsky, Ph.D., SVP of biology and preclinical development.

“Importantly, this research collaboration will allow us to understand the potential of NKTR-214 with key compounds in the Takeda oncology portfolio, including a SYK-inhibitor and a proteasome inhibitor, and identify which combination treatment regimens show the most promise for possible advancement into the clinic.”

“We see significant potential in Nektar’s unique CD122-biased agonist in particular the ability to stimulate tumor-killing T-cells in the tumor micro-environment itself,” added Phil Rowlands, Ph.D., head of oncology at Takeda.

“Research partnerships are an important part of helping us advance our aspiration of curing cancer. Working together with Nektar will enable us to identify combinations with exciting preclinical activity and help us achieve Takeda’s goal of developing innovative, targeted therapies to treat people with cancer.”

This comes a few months after Nektar posted new data for its chronic pain asset NKTR-181, hitting its primary endpoint in a phase 3 back in March.

The company has not always had the best of luck in cancer tests, however. Back in 2015, its candidate NKTR-102 provided a 2.1-month improvement in median overall survival compared to chemotherapies in a breast cancer study, but that was not enough to qualify for statistical significance.

Takeda also has many, many shots on goal in early-stage cancer and GI programs, having signed a slew of deals and possible acquisitions with U.S. and European biotechs over the past 12 months.