Tessa buys Euchloe for suite of checkpoint inhibitors

Skyline
Singapore, where Tessa and Euchloe are based.

Tessa Therapeutics has bought Euchloe Bio for its suite of checkpoint inhibitors. The takeover gives Tessa antibodies against PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4 and other targets that it sees complementing its own virus-specific T cells.

Euchloe spun out of A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network last year, only to be snapped up quickly by its compatriot Tessa. In its brief time as an independent company, Euchloe worked on getting checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4, TIM-3 and LAG-3 ready for the clinic. The list covers established checkpoints targeted by Merck’s Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, as well as emerging areas that have attracted the interest of Tesaro and others.

The pipeline programs are well behind the leaders in some of the niches. Euchloe will continue to develop its antibodies for use as monotherapies. But, with Tessa seeing the checkpoint inhibitors as a way to unlock the full power of its own pipeline, there is value in the acquired assets even if they never establish themselves as standalone products.

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“Euchloe Bio’s strong expertise and extensive range of proprietary antibodies is an excellent complement to Tessa’s existing portfolio,” Tessa CSO John Connolly said in a statement. “The strong preclinical data we are seeing suggests that the combination of our technologies has strong potential to deliver further breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy.”

Tessa’s own pipeline is built on technologies developed at Baylor College of Medicine, notably a virus-specific T cell platform. The company initially used the platform to orchestrate attacks by the immune system on tumors that express Epstein-Barr virus. That is the approach taken by Tessa’s phase 3 treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

More recently, Tessa has begun targeting tumors that express human papillomavirus. This led Tessa to step up its interest in immune checkpoint inhibitors. A phase 1 trial is assessing the combination of Tessa’s T cells and Bristol-Myers’ Opdivo. By acquiring Euchloe, Tessa has gained an in-house source of drugs to combine with its T cells.

Tessa also sees the acquisition benefiting another of its programs. The company had already begun working with Euchloe on CAR technologies prior to the buyout. Tessa thinks pairing its T cells with CAR targeting will enable it to hit solid tumors.

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