Serial partner MD Anderson pens Affimed I/O research pact

MD Anderson has a growing list of biotech players in its I/O research.

Already partnering with the likes of Adaptimmune and Cellectis for immuno-oncology, MD Anderson has today added Germany’s Affimed to its growing list of I/O players.

The biotech, which focuses on targeted immunotherapies, teams up with MD Anderson to work on an exclusive R&D and sales collab to use Affimed’s TandAb tech alongside its in-house natural killer cell (NK) product. Initial focus will be on blood cancers.

“In our effort to broaden the applications of our NK-cell engager products, we are excited to partner with the world-leading NK-cell experts at MD Anderson to investigate their unique product together with our first-in-class NK-cell engager AFM13 in Hodgkin lymphoma,” said Adi Hoess, CEO of Affimed. AFM13 is a bispecific antibody that is designed to engage NK cells.

Hoess added: “Harnessing the advantages of both antibody-based and cell therapy approaches has the potential to better exploit the therapeutic activity of NK cells. We believe this partnership could benefit many hematological malignancies, including in multiple myeloma, where Affimed is developing AFM26, a BCMA/CD16A bispecific antibody. For us, this partnership is an important step in executing our strategy to develop transformative cancer therapies.”

Under the structure of the deal, MD Anderson will be responsible for taking on preclinical research looking at its NK cells derived from umbilical cord blood, which it developed, in combo with Affimed’s lead NK-cell engager, the CD30- and CD16A-targeting TandAb AFM13. This should naturally evolve into human testing further down the line, although timelines were not given.

Affimed will on its side stump up cash for the R&D; both said that the deal has a clause allowing for an expanded partnership between the pair, although it’s not clear what will encourage or limit the use of that clause.

The biotech also holds an option to exclusive global rights to develop and sell any med coming out of the pact. A financial breakdown in dollar terms was not given.

Analysts at Leerink essentially shrugged their shoulders, saying in a note to clients that it was "intriguing, but early stage." The firm added: "This news does not materially affect our investment thesis on Affimed shares and we maintain our MP rating on the stock. In the absence of meaningful clinical catalysts near term, and with a clinical stage pipeline that is progressing only slowly in a highly competitive space, we expect the stock to remain range-bound."

This comes a year after Affimed inked a deal that made it the latest in a long string of biotechs to partner up with Merck on a combination study using the PD-1 blockbuster Keytruda.

Under this pact, Affimed is paying its way for a phase 1b study that also combined AFM13 with Keytruda against Hodgkin lymphoma.