UPDATED: Roche, immatics forge immunotherapy cancer R&D deal worth up to $1B

Immatics CEO Paul Higham

Fresh off a $46 million funding round, Germany's immatics has inked a deal to collaborate with Roche ($RHHBY) on cancer therapies, signing an end-to-end agreement that could bring in more than $1 billion in milestones.

Under the deal, Roche will fork over $17 million up front to work on some of immatics' early-stage cancer treatments, covering an untold number of vaccines and immunotherapies from discovery through commercialization. The two will team up to push the cancer drugs forward, with Roche funding development and paying out milestones along the way that could cross $1 billion if the treatments make it to market.

The most advanced asset in the deal is IMA942, a gastric cancer vaccine ready for Phase I trials, and the remaining compounds target prostate and non-small cell lung cancer, the companies said. Like all of immatics' vaccines, IMA942 is derived from its proprietary tumor-associated peptides (TUMAPs), which use a specific cancer cell's protein fragments to target treatment.

In addition to early-stage development, the partnership also tasks immatics with putting its XPRESIDENT discovery platform to use on Roche's behalf, identifying promising candidates and leading the way toward novel therapies and new targets for in-development assets. For immatics, a 2007 Fierce 15 alumnus, the Roche deal validates XPRESIDENT's place in the burgeoning world of cancer immunotherapy R&D, CEO Paul Higham said, pointing to a bright future for TUMAP-based development.

"What Roche has done is see our technology platform as a way to access really interesting cancer antigens," Higham told FierceBiotech, whether for vaccines, combo therapies or checkpoint inhibitors. "(The deal) allows Roche to explore the full gamut of cancer immunotherapy approaches using our TUMAPs, and it gives immatics the best chance of showing really positive clinical data down the line."

And Roche, the world's largest oncology outfit, believes immatics' platform could be key to turning promising molecules into effective therapies, said Hy Levitsky, the drugmaker's head of Cancer Immunology Experimental Medicine.

"The wealth of relevant cancer-specific antigens that we expect to emerge from this research collaboration will provide an extraordinary opportunity to elicit broad tumor-specific immune responses upon vaccination, especially when combined with other immunomodulatory molecules in our pipeline," Levitsky said in a statement.

Meanwhile, immatics is charging ahead with its most advanced program, IMA901 for renal cell carcinoma, banking a $46 million Series D last month and working through Phase III trials. That cash should carry the vaccine through the regulatory process in the U.S. and Europe, Higham said, at which point immatics will look to partner up for commercialization.

- read the announcement

Special Report: FierceBiotech's 2007 Fierce 15 - immatics