Servier pens I/O pact with Pieris, pays €30M upfront

Servier has paid Pieris Pharmaceuticals €30 million ($31.5 million) upfront and committed to far more in milestones for rights to a PD-1-targeting bispecific checkpoint inhibitor and four other immuno-oncology candidates. The deal represents a big boost for Pieris, which had a market cap of $65 million prior to the unveiling of the pact.

In return for €30 million upfront and milestones that could theoretically top €1.7 bIllion, Servier has landed the ex-U.S. rights to preclinical-stage PD-1 bispecific PRS-332 and a stake in four more defined, but as as yet undisclosed, immuno-oncology programs. Another three programs could be added to the alliance, too. Pieris can choose to retain the U.S. rights to three of the undisclosed programs, which may combine antibodies from Servier with proteins from its transatlantic partner’s platform.

All the programs are designed to tap into the potential of Pieris’ protein platform. The proteins, dubbed Anticalins, are engineered versions of endogenous low-molecular weight human proteins called lipocalins. Pieris thinks the nature of its proteins give them high affinity and specificity, and make them suitable for use in bispecific therapeutics. The bispecific potential of the proteins is at the heart of the deal with Servier.

“The synergies of building unique bispecifics from Servier's antibodies and Pieris' Anticalin proteins are multifold, as the versatility of our platform allows for extensive combinatorial target opportunities with the numerous IO 'building blocks' our team has discovered to date,” Pieris SVP Louis Matis said in a statement.

So far, Pieris has disclosed the most details about PRS-332. The candidate combines an anti-PD-1 antibody and an Anticalin against an undisclosed checkpoint that is co-expressed on exhausted T cells. By blocking PD-1 and the other checkpoint simultaneously, Pieris thinks PRS-332 will prove more effective at unleashing the immune system against tumors than combinations of monoclonal antibodies against multiple targets.

The size and scope of the deal represent a step up on Pieris’ previous immuno-oncology pact with Roche. That earlier deal saw Roche hand over $6.5 million and commit to more in milestones to get Pieris to work on Anticalin-based therapeutics against an undisclosed immuno-oncology target.

Pieris shares rose more than 30% in premarket trading on the back of the Servier deal.