TeneoTwo, put in play by Amgen, lands $100M AstraZeneca buyout on back of blood cancer bispecific

AstraZeneca is making moves to challenge Amgen’s bispecific T-cell engager unit, paying $100 million to acquire a candidate designed to improve on the CD19xCD3 incumbent Blincyto. 

Amgen itself made the deal possible. Last year, the Big Biotech struck a deal to buy Teneobio for $900 million upfront. As part of the deal, Teneobio spun off three assets to form affiliate companies. One of the affiliates, TeneoTwo, received TNB-486, a CD19xCD3 T-cell engaging bispecific antibody that moved into a phase 1 clinical trial in relapsed or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2020.

AstraZeneca has snapped up TeneoTwo and its drug candidate for $100 million upfront, plus up to $805 million in R&D-related milestones. If TNB-486 then makes it to market, TeneoTwo’s owners could receive up to an additional $360 million in paydays tied to commercial milestones. 

The deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, will give AstraZeneca control of a program that could deliver a challenger to Amgen’s Blincyto. Amgen helped put bispecific T-cell engagers on the map when it received FDA approval for Blincyto in 2014, but the limitations of the molecule have left scope for competitors to overcome its first-mover advantage.

In a paper published last year, researchers at Teneobio presented the results of their work to improve on the “unfavorable pharmacokinetics” and “significant toxicity” of Blincyto. After pitting TNB-486 against Blincyto in preclinical studies, the researchers concluded their candidate could have dosing advantages over Amgen’s incumbent, which is given via continuous infusion over multiple days, in some regimens. 

Anas Younes, senior vice president of hematology R&D at AstraZeneca, sees the profile of TNB-486 opening up chances to use it in combination with CD20-targeted drugs—of which rituximab is an example—an opportunity that has also caught the eye of researchers working on Blincyto.  

“By redirecting the body’s natural immune response to target B-cell malignancies, TNB-486 alone or in combination with CD20-targeted therapy could potentially deepen clinical responses and improve patient outcomes. We believe this innovative molecule, which was designed to optimize the therapeutic window of T-cell activation, will enable us to explore novel combinations that have the potential to become new standards of care in this setting,” Younes said in a statement.