Roche will join Pieris Pharmaceuticals in an up-to-CHF 415 million ($409 million) cancer immunotherapy collaboration designed to develop new drug candidates based on Pieris’ Anticalin® technology platform against an undisclosed target.

Under its first partnered immune-oncology program, Pieris will discover, characterize and optimize Anticalin-based drug candidates. Pieris will then work with Roche to assess various drug formats against the target, and advance them through preclinical development.

Roche would oversee IND-enabling activities, clinical development, and worldwide marketing of any resulting products.

In return, Roche agreed to pay Pieris up to CHF 415 million (about $409.3 million), excluding royalties. That includes CHF 6.5 million (about $6.4 million) in upfront money, research funding, and payments tied to development, regulatory, and sales milestones. Pieris is also eligible for mid- single-digit to low double-digit royalties on any future product sales.

The deal is Roche’s second announced cancer collaboration in less than a week. Just yesterday, the pharma giant inked a more-than-$500 million alliance with SQZ Biotech to develop a cell therapy platform that would empower a patient’s own immune cells to fight a broad range of cancers.

“Our partnership with Roche is a significant step forward for Pieris,” Pieris President and CEO Stephen Yoder said in a statement. “The decision by the leader in the development and commercialization of cancer biologics to collaborate with Pieris underscores the unique potential of Anticalin-based proteins as a differentiated class of immuno-oncology drugs.”

Yoder added that Pieris will also continue, on its own, to develop its fully proprietary programs, including its lead program, the preclinical PRS-343 (CD137/HER2 bispecific)—one of several bispecific Anticalin-based protein therapeutics the company is developing against tumor and immunomodulatory targets. Pieris is developing these compounds—which aim to activate the immune system within the tumor microenvironment—within its PRS-300 series of immuno-oncology compounds, now in discovery phases.

Another Pieris proprietary program, the hepcidin antagonist PRS-080 for anemia, generated positive Phase I results, with the company saying yesterday that the compound generated a “marked” decrease in plasma hepcidin within one hour of administration, followed by dose-dependent elevations of both serum iron concentration and transferrin saturation.

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