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Immuno-oncology dominates in new monthly biopharma deals digest

September 2020 saw a string of deals focused on immuno-oncology (IO) signed, as the field continues to forge ahead despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The standout deal was Gilead Sciences’ $21 billion acquisition of Immunomedics. Very few mergers and acquisitions (M&As) of this size have been announced this year. Through the acquisition, Gilead gains the TROP2-targeted antibody–drug conjugate Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan), which the US Food and Drug Administration approved as a treatment for triple-negative breast cancer in April this year. The deal was completed on October 23.

Gilead also signed an $805 million deal with clinical-stage IO company Jounce Therapeutics to exclusively license its JTX-1811 antibody program. The deal, for which Gilead will pay $85 million upfront, provides it with exclusive rights to develop and commercialize JTX-1811, an anti-CCR8 monoclonal antibody designed to reduce immunosuppressive tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells.

In our September 2020 feature Immuno-oncology cell therapy branches out, we looked at how optimization of CAR-T cell technologies and the application of other immune cell types, including natural killer cells, are tackling the efficacy, cost and logistical challenges of cell therapies for cancer. Early in September, Lyell Immunopharma, which focuses on autologous cell therapies, partnered with Orca Bio, which has expertise in T cell purification technology. The partnership between the two Californian biotechs will develop CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumors—an area in which CAR-T cells have so far been unsuccessful. Financial details were not released.

Finally, in a major M&A deal outside the IO field, Roche announced in late September its $449 million acquisition of Inflazome and its portfolio of orally available small-molecule NLRP3 inhibitors targeting a variety of inflammatory diseases. The NLRP3 inflammasome has been the focus of other major deals in recent years, including Novartis’s acquisition of IFM Tre in April 2019 for $310 million plus milestones and Genentech’s acquisition of Jecure Therapeutics in November 2018 for an undisclosed amount.


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