Tiziana Life Sciences PLC (LSE:TILS, NASDAQ:TLSA) said it has inked an exclusive licensing agreement with Precision BioSciences (NASDAQ:DTIL) to explore the use of Tiziana’s foralumab monoclonal antibody (mAb) to enhance the next generation of CAR-T therapies.
CAR-T, or chimeric antigen receptors cell therapy, is at the vanguard of treating blood-borne cancers, and major acquisitions by Celgene (now owned by Bristol Myers Squibb) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) underscore the interest in this emerging area of biotechnology.
While a number of these new therapies have been clinically successful, relapse rates remain high, which continues to limit widespread use.
Precision is taking a new approach to development with its allogeneic CAR-Ts and gene correction therapies using its ARCUS genome editing platform to overcome some of the challenges and broaden usage to solid tumours.
The US firm is hoping to use foralumab, Tiziana’s clinical-stage fully-human mAb, as a lymphodepletion or ‘tolerising’ agent to improve the long-term success of CAR-T in cancer treatment.
Precision’s chief medical officer, Alan List, said: “We are building out an allogeneic CAR-T platform with editing strategies and novel conditioning regimens, such as a lymphodepleting agent like foralumab, for a broad range of hematologic malignancies and solid tumours.
“By combining Precision’s know-how in constructing novel CAR-T products with novel conditioning regimens, we will explore this approach to potentially improve durability of clinical responses to our therapeutic platform.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Precision will be responsible for the development, commercialisation, and costs for use of foralumab, and Tiziana will receive an upfront sum, and “certain milestone” and royalty payments.
Tiziana chief executive Kunwar Shailubhai said: “We believe use of foralumab as a lymphodepletion or tolerising agent has the potential, either alone or in combination with other co-stimulatory molecules, to improve the long-term success of CAR T in cancer treatment.”
It is hard to underestimate the interest in and the money being spent on CAR-T therapies with treatments such Kymriah, Yescarta, Tecartus and Breyanzi now reaching the marketplace.
Analysts estimate around U$4bn has been poured into this arena, with a further US$2bn coming from industry partnerships.
M&A activity underscores the interest in CAR-T with Celgene splashing out US$9bn for Juno Therapeutics in 2018 (before being swallowed by Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)) , and Gilead acquiring of Kite Pharma for US$11.9bn.
Precision, capitalised at US$815mln, represents the new wave of companies coming through, alongside Allogen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ALLO), which is worth US$3.5bn.