Biontech buys new cancer drug for 200 million euros

Biontech buys new cancer drug for 200 million euros

Biontech founder Ugur Sahin

The company is currently also growing through acquisitions.

(Photo: imago images/photothek)

Frankfurt Builds with one of his biggest deals to date Biontech its product development in the field of cancer therapies. As the Mainz-based biotech company announced on Monday Biontech for an upfront payment of $200 million, the worldwide rights to a potential cancer immunotherapy being developed by private US company OncoC4.

This antibody-based drug, called ONC-392, aims to boost immune responses against cancer cells and has so far been tested in a so-called phase 1/2 study, in which initial safety and efficacy data are being determined.

Both companies want to start a larger phase 3 study this year, which could then also deliver results relevant to approval. Biontech also plans to test the active ingredient in combination with its own product candidates. In addition to the upfront payment, the US company is entitled to success-related milestone payments and, in the event of successful marketing, to double-digit license fees.

Corona business ensures Biontech high financial strength

The deal is Biontech’s largest product acquisition to date. At the same time, it is another signal of how the Mainz-based biotech upstart is using the enormous earnings from the corona vaccine business to expand its research program. Cancer medicine continues to be a focus.

The biotech has strong earnings from the sale of the along with Pfizer developed Covid vaccine Comirnaty has cash reserves of a good 20 billion euros and thus considerable scope for acquisitions or new research alliances. Most recently, Biontech acquired the British company Instadeep for around 410 million euros with the aim of creating a leading global platform for the development of new vaccines and immunotherapies based on artificial intelligence.

At the beginning of the year, Biontech entered into an extensive partnership with the British government to carry out large-scale clinical trials in the field of cancer and infectious diseases. At the same time, Biontech announced the establishment of a research and development center in Cambridge with more than 70 employees.

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The company had already strengthened its cancer research in previous years with smaller deals. This included the takeover of the American cell therapy specialist Neon Therapeutics and alliances with the Polish Ryvu Therapeutics and Munich Medigene. Last August, Biontech also expanded a long-standing partnership with Denmark’s Genmab.

Like these previous alliances, the latest deal targets a class of drugs outside of mRNA technology, which has been the focus of Biontech’s cancer research to date. OncoC4’s drug candidate is an antibody that targets the CTLA-4 receptor. This receptor inhibits the immune response of T cells against tumor cells. It is therefore hoped that by blocking the receptor, the body’s own defense reaction against cancer will be strengthened.

One from the US group Bristol Myers A decade ago, the CTLA blocker developed by Squibb, which is marketed under the Yervoy name, initiated the triumph of so-called “checkpoint inhibitors”, a class of active ingredients that is now generating double-digit billions in sales in cancer therapy.

Biontech and OncoC4 believe that their product candidate is an improved variant of a CTLA-4 blocker that causes fewer side effects in healthy tissue and can therefore also be used more widely.

Biontech: 20 cancer therapies in development

“Although CTLA-4 has been known as a promising target for more than ten years, we believe that its full potential in cancer immunotherapy has not yet been realised,” said Biontech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin on Monday. “The data presented by OncoC4 on their antibody indicate a differentiated safety profile and encouraging clinical activity in the treatment of different tumor types.”

The project underscores the company’s strategy of using a broader range of technologies in cancer research and not just mRNA, which is so successful in vaccine development. It is believed that the antibody could be a valuable addition to the immuno-oncology portfolio, Sahin said, both as a monotherapy and in combination with personalized mRNA-based immunotherapies.

The ONC-392 antibody has received Fast Track Designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – intended to facilitate the development of new drugs and speed up testing – as a monotherapy for immunotherapy-resistant non-small cell lung cancer. It is also being studied as a combination therapy for ovarian cancer.

Including the newly acquired project, Biontech’s development pipeline in the field of oncology will include a total of 20 potential cancer therapies that will be tested clinically, i.e. on humans. A good half of this relates to mRNA-based product candidates, the rest to other active ingredients and processes. In addition, Biontech is working on a whole series of mRNA-based vaccines against infectious diseases.

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First publication: 03/20/2023, 1:07 p.m. (last updated: 03/20/2023, 1:55 p.m.).

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