Bayer takes control of Compugen cancer program, pays out milestone

Bayer HealthCare has taken full control of the development of CGEN-15001T, an immune checkpoint inhibitor discovered by Compugen ($CGEN). The asset transfer triggered a $7.8 million (€7.1 million) milestone payment by Bayer, bringing the total pocketed by Compugen since it entered into the deal in 2013 up to $25 million.

Compugen CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag

Tel Aviv, Israel-based Compugen has received $15 million of the money for hitting preclinical goals relating to CGEN-15001T. Having generated evidence of activity in preclinical cancer immunotherapy models, Compugen has passed the program on to Bayer. A team at the German conglomerate will now work on the final stages of preclinical research with a view to advancing the immune checkpoint regulator into the clinic. Compugen is in line to receive further milestones, totalling more than $500 million across two programs, as CGEN-15001T advances.

CGEN-15001T, a B7/CD28-like immune checkpoint candidate, is believed to inhibit T cell activation, drive a shift between the types of T helper cells that deal with intracellular and extracellular enemies and induce immune tolerance. Compugen thinks these traits give it a chance of carving out a space in the busy immuno-oncology sector. "[The] program presents a distinctive differentiation profile compared to known checkpoints, providing potentially different mechanisms of action and expanded opportunities for cancer treatment," Compugen CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag said in a statement.

With Bayer now taking responsibility for CGEN-15001T, Compugen's attention will shift to the second program in the collaboration, CGEN-15022. Compugen is set to bag a further $15 million if it can advance CGEN-15022 to the point at which Bayer takes over. CGEN-15022, another B7/CD28-like immune checkpoint target, is seen as playing a role in the treatment of epithelial cancers, such as those affecting the liver, lung and ovaries. The program has yet to generate any milestone payments to Compugen.

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