Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and Immatics will develop up to seven cancer cell therapies by launching a new partnership and expanding a three-year-old collaboration inked by BMS predecessor Celgene, the companies said today, in an expanded strategic alliance that could generate up to $4.2 billion or more for Immatics.

In the new partnership, BMS and Immatics have agreed to develop two programs owned by BMS, with the companies retaining options to develop up to four additional programs each. The programs will combine Immatics’ allogeneic Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) platform, called ACTallo®, and technologies developed by BMS.

ACTallo is Immatics’ proprietary allogeneic, off-the-shelf adoptive cell therapy platform based on gamma delta T cells sourced from healthy donors, not reliant on the immune system of a cancer patient, using a manufacturing process designed to create hundreds of doses from one single donor leukapheresis.

Immatics—which is based in Tuebingen, Germany, and Houston—reasons that gamma delta T cells are well suited for an allogeneic approach since they are abundant in the peripheral blood, show intrinsic anti-tumor activity, naturally infiltrate solid tumors, and do not cause graft-vs-host disease.

The gamma delta T cells can be engineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or T cell receptors (TCRs), then redirected to the patient’s cancer cells. ACTallo products do not require personalized manufacturing.

Immatics will be responsible for preclinical development of the initial two BMS-owned programs and will receive additional payment for activities it would perform at BMS’ request. BMS will oversee clinical development and commercialization activities of all Bristol Myers Squibb-owned programs thereafter.

The companies also agreed to expand their up-to-$1.5 billion collaboration launched in 2019, focused on developing autologous T cell receptor-based therapy (TCR-T), by adding one additional, unspecified TCR target discovered by Immatics.

“Today’s announcement represents an important part of our continued investment in next generation cell therapies that have the potential to provide transformative outcomes to patients with cancer,” Rupert Vessey, BM BCh, FRCP, DPhil, BMS Executive Vice President, Research & Early Development, said in a statement.

Investors sent Immatics shares up nearly 3% in earlier trading today, to $7.77 as of 11:23 am ET.

One analyst, however, showed more enthusiasm for the expanded collaborations by the companies.

“We view IMTX’s recent partnerships positively in light of the current market environment,” Jonathan Chang, PhD, a Senior Research Analyst at SVB Securities covering Emerging Oncology, wrote today in a research note. “While risks remain for IMTX and the broader TCR space (implications of HLA [human leukocyte antigen] restriction, achieving clinical activity in tumor types that represent larger commercial opportunities, duration of any clinical benefit achieved, etc.), we continue to view IMTX as a leader in the TCR space and attractively valued with a broad platform encompassing efforts in both TCR T-cell therapy and TCR bispecifics.”

$80M upfront

New York-based BMS will pay Immatics $60 million upfront to launch the ACTallo partnership, and up to $700 million per program through development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, as well as tiered royalty payments of up to low double-digit percentages on net product sales.

In the expanded TCR-T collaboration, BMS will pay Immatics $20 million upfront, plus milestone payments and royalties. That collaboration was launched by Immatics and Celgene, which BMS acquired for $74 billion later that year.

The combined $80 million in upfront payments extend Immatics’ cash runway from “into 2024,” as the company stated earlier this year, to the second half of 2024.

Immatics finished the first quarter with cash and cash equivalents and other financial assets totaling €252.7 million ($280.5 million) as of March 31, up from €145.1 million ($161.1 million) as of December 31, 2021. The increase primarily reflected a $150 million upfront payment in connection with a separate up-to-$770 million collaboration agreement with BMS to develop IMA401, launched in December 2021, partly offset by the financing of ongoing R&D activities.

IMA401 is the most advanced product candidate in Immatics’ TCR Bispecifics pipeline, called TCER® (T Cell Engaging Receptors),  targeting an HLA-A*02-presented peptide derived from both MAGEA4 and MAGEA8.

Last month, Immatics launched a Phase I trial (NCT05359445) assessing IMA401 in approximately 50 patients at up to 15 centers in Germany. The trial is designed to determine the maximum tolerated dose and/or the recommended Phase II dose for IMA401 in biomarker-positive (HLA-A*02:01 and MAGEA4/8) patients with recurrent and/or refractory solid tumors.

“We welcome opening another chapter of our work with a trusted partner and the expertise and capabilities both companies provide in cell therapy development to create novel medicines for cancer patients,” stated Harpreet Singh, PhD, Immatics CEO and Co-Founder.

Added Vessey: “We are excited to expand our collaboration with Immatics that allows us to combine their novel off-the-shelf platforms with our industry-leading research and manufacturing expertise in cell therapy to develop new allogeneic cell therapy treatments to potentially help patients with solid tumor malignancies.”