Turnstone teams up with Takeda in $900M deal to work on biotech's oncolytic drug

Fierce 15 winner Turnstone Biologics has penned a near $1 billion biobucks deal with biotech’s best friend, Takeda.

The pact, which has a substantial $120 million upfront in cash, sees Takeda gain an exclusive worldwide license to co-develop and co-commercialize Turnstone’s leading (but still early-stage) oncolytic candidate RIVAL-01. Turnstone also stands to receive up to $900 million in milestone payments.

Under the deal, global costs and profits will be shared 50-50, and the pair will also work together on other meds out of Turnstone’s so-called vaccinia virus platform.

Takeda also has the right to license certain meds from the collab, with Turnstone retaining ownership of the others to advance independently.

“Our collaboration with Takeda will combine our exciting viral immunotherapy platform with Takeda’s deep immuno-oncology research development expertise and proprietary technologies to discover and advance new medicines that have the potential to address critical gaps in the treatment of cancer that exist today,” said Sammy Farah, Ph.D., CEO and president of Turnstone Biologics.

“Importantly, this partnership allows us to co-develop and co-commercialize RIVAL-01 together with Takeda, enabling us to broaden our internal capabilities and expand our viral immunotherapy pipeline, while retaining our ability to independently develop other candidates based on this technology.”

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RIVAL-01 works by encoding transgenes for Flt3 ligand, anti-CTLA-4 antibody and IL-12 cytokine. The transgenes are designed to be expressed when the vaccinia virus enters and replicates in cancer cells throughout the body.

Mike Burgess, Ph.D., president of R&D at Turnstone Biologics, explained that this drug is set up to deliver three “powerful immune modulating agents to primary and metastatic tumor sites and limit their expression to the local tumor environment, reducing the potential for systemic toxicity.”

He added that this has the “potential to drive immune activity in the tumor that is not otherwise achievable.”

This builds on Turnstone’s pact with AbbVie, which focuses on selected MG1 Maraba programs, and a collab and licensing agreement with the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology to develop new, neoantigen-based cancer immunotherapies.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the financial breakdown of the deal.