Roche will partner 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, in an immuno-oncology collaboration that could generate more than $500 million for SQZ.
The proposed therapy involves applying SQZ’s “CellSqueeze” technology—which entails engineering B cells as an oncology therapeutic platform—in order to introduce tumor-associated proteins into a patient’s B-cells which will then help activate killer T-cells to attack the cancer.
Cell squeeze technology is a microfluidic chip that enables the delivery of materials into almost any cell type, including primary human-derived cells. SQZ maintains the exclusive worldwide license from MIT for CellSqueeze for any application
“In collaboration with the renowned team at Roche, we seek to engineer a patient’s own immune system to target tumors more effectively and bring hope to people suffering from cancer,” SQZ Founder and CEO Armon Sharei, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Roche agreed to pay SQZ more than $500 million in upfront and potential clinical, regulatory, and sales milestone-based payments for advancement of all products across all planned indications, in addition to royalties on potential future products.
SQZ was founded in 2013 to commercialize technology co-discovered by Dr. Sharei, as well as Robert Langer, Ph.D., and Klavs Jensen, Ph.D. In June, the company said it received $5 million in Series A funding, led by Polaris Partners with participation by 20/20 Healthcare Partners and other investors.
In the same statement, SQZ said it was adding two professionals to its board of directors: Mark Murcko, Ph.D., the former CTO and scientific advisory board chair of Vertex; and Garry Nicholson, president and CEO of XTuit Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company developing novel micro-environment activated therapeutics. Nicholson is a former head of Pfizer’s global cancer business.
Professor Arlene Sharpe, leader of the Dana-Farber Cancer Immunology Program and co-inventor of the first anti-PD-1 therapy, will join the SQZ scientific advisory board, the company added.