Eli Lilly will use Immunocore’s cancer immunotherapy technology as the companies work to co-discover and co-develop new T cell-based treatments against the disease, in a deal that could generate for Immunocore $25 million-plus per candidate developed, the companies said today.
The companies will apply Immunocore's Immune Mobilizing Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology, which directs the T cells of patients to target the cancerous cells without damaging healthy cells. ImmTAC uses Immunocore-engineered, high-affinity T cell receptors, linking them to an antibody fragment capable of activating the immune system to kill targeted cells, whether cancer or viral cells.
The lead product candidate among ImmTACs, IMCgp100, is in Phase II clinical trials for late stage melanoma, according to Lilly and Immunocore.
Lilly agreed to pay Immunocore an upfront fee of $15 million per program for discovery of new ImmTACs against targets to be jointly selected, with the purpose of creating packages of preclinical candidates. For each package Lilly agrees to develop and commercialize, Immunocore will receive from the pharma giant an “opt-in fee” of $10 million and an option to continue co-development with Lilly on a cost-sharing and profit-sharing basis. If Immunocore opts not to exercise that option, the company will be entitled to potential future significant milestone and royalty payments.
Founded in 2008, Immunocore traces its roots to Avidex, a University of Oxford spinout founded in 1999 to develop novel T Cell Receptor technology invented by founder and chief scientist Bent Jakobsen, Ph.D.
"The major goal and challenge of cancer immunotherapy is to direct the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer. We believe Immunocore's ImmTAC platform has the potential to do just that," Jan Lundberg, Ph.D., evp, science and technology and president, Lilly Research Laboratories, said in a statement.
Lilly joins three other drug developer giants in establishing collaborations with Immunocore; the others are Roche’s Genentech unit, GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca’s medImmune subsidiary, with which Immunocore launched an up-to-$320 million-per-compound partnership in January.