AstraZeneca said today that its MedImmune global biologics R&D subsidiary signed an oncology research collaboration and licensing agreement with Immunocore, a privately held, UK-based biotechnology company—a deal that could generate as much as $320 million per compound developed.
MedImmune and Immunocore didn’t say how many compounds they were looking to develop, but they did disclose MedImmune will pay Immunocore $20 million up front per development program. Immunocore could receive up to $300 million in payments tied to development and commercial milestone for each target program, plus “significant” tiered royalties if the programs prove to be successful.
The companies said they will research and develop cancer therapies using Immunocore’s Immune mobilizing monoclonal T-cell receptor Against Cancer (ImmTAC) technology. ImmTACs are designed to work by directing a patient’s T cells to specifically destroy only the cancerous cells, avoiding damage to healthy cells. The technology can also be applied to fight viral cells.
Oncology is one of three core therapy areas on which AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said last March MedImmune’s parent would focus its R&D efforts; the other two are cardiovascular and metabolic disease and respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity diseases.
The Immunocore collaboration is the third deal announced by AstraZeneca in the past week. Just yesterday, Astra Zeneca and Horizon Discovery inked a research, collaboration, and license agreement to explore a range of oncology-relevant genotypes, with the goal of identifying and validating a number of new drug targets—the second collaboration between the companies, coming less than a year after they agreed to explore Horizon Discovery’s first-in-class kinase target program, HD-001.
And on January 3, AstraZeneca bought Probiodrug’s experimental cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) inhibitor program for an undisclosed price. The sale included a CDK9 inhibitor lead molecule and back-up compounds with associated intellectual property.
AstraZeneca, which is looking to build its portfolio in immune-mediated cancer therapies, said the collaboration with Immunocore will help expand MedImmune’s portfolio with new treatments that use patients’ own immune systems to fight cancer by targeting tumors.
Founded in 2008, Immunocore has about 90 staffers and is located in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK. 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.
In addition to MedImmune, Immunocore has discovery collaborations ongoing with two other drug developer giants, Roche’s Genentech unit and GlaxoSmithKline.