Rheos pens Roche collab for next-gen immunometabolism research

Cancer giant Roche will seek out new drugs in immunometabolism using Rheos Medicines' platform. (Roche)

Rheos Medicines has sealed a near $800 million biobucks deal with Swiss major Roche to seek out and develop new meds for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Rheos’ work is focused on what it calls metabolism-tuning therapies and is targeting autoimmune disease and cancer via metabolic pathways in immune cells that are linked to disease and “re-tuning” the immune responses that go awry in those diseases.

Under the deal, cancer giant Roche will gain an “exclusive research effort” to seek out new drugs in immunometabolism using this platform that “modify the fate or function of certain human immune cells.”

For its part, Rheos will also be responsible for drug discovery efforts under the collab. Roche gets an option to exclusively license a “defined number of programs” coming out of the deal.

The financials break down like this: There is a fairly small $42.5 million upfront from Roche in cash, with $90 million also tacked on for “specified research and preclinical development milestones as well as option fees.”

The largest part, of course, is backloaded: $660 million is all tied into biobucks, and the caveats that brings. On top of this, “for those products for which Rheos and Roche could share development and commercial rights Rheos will be entitled to additional financial compensation within the U.S. and ex- U.S. commensurate with the share of its financial investment in development and commercialization.”

“We are thrilled to be leveraging our expertise in human immune cell metabolism in partnership with Roche,” said Barbara Fox, the new CEO at Rheos.

“We believe that our team’s deep experience in immunology and cellular metabolism along with our unique approach have the potential to unlock a new frontier in precision medicine for immune mediated disease. This partnership will help to accelerate the translation of insights in immunometabolism to the development of groundbreaking therapeutics for patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.”

RELATED: Third Rock launches Rheos, puts $60M behind immunometabolism player

Fox became the startup’s chief just a few months back, coming off her former company Tilos Therapeutics’ $773 million sale to Merck,

She takes over from interim CEO Abbie Celniker, Ph.D., a partner at Third Rock Ventures, which launched Rheos with $60 million in March 2018. Celniker ceded the reins last September when Third Rock poached Dr. Sanjay Keswani from Roche, but took them up again this July when Keswani headed to Annexon Biosciences to become its chief medical officer.

"We are excited to partner with Rheos and look forward to the development of a novel class of therapeutics for patients with autoimmune and inflammatory disease,” added Gijs van den Brink, senior vice president and global head of immunology, infectious diseases and ophthalmology at Roche Pharma Early Research and Development.

"We believe Rheos' proprietary platform and expertise in immunometabolism is a strong complement to Roche's expertise in autoimmunity and inflammation and in developing and commercializing innovative therapies."