Takeda Pharmaceutical will develop Maverick Therapeutics’ platform designed to improve the utility of T-cell redirection therapy for cancer treatment through a collaboration valued at $125 million, the companies said today.

Maverick is a private startup that was spun out of its former parent, Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc., last year. The company is working to develop a novel T-cell engagement format designed to eliminate the toxicity challenges inherent in the use of T-cell redirection therapy due to expression of the target antigen on normal tissue.

Maverick says its therapeutic antibodies are designed to be inactive upon administration but fully active in the tumor microenvironment.

“We see significant potential in Maverick to develop unique, small, and customizable T-cell engagement therapeutics,” Phil Rowlands, interim head of Takeda’s Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit, said in a statement. “Working together with Maverick will enable us to leverage a potentially groundbreaking biologics platform to support Takeda’s goal of developing innovative, targeted therapies to treat people with cancer.”

Added Jeanmarie Guenot, Ph.D., Maverick’s co-founder: “We believe that this collaboration validates Maverick’s approach to T-cell engagement in the tumor microenvironment which we believe will allow us to address previously intractable oncology targets.”

Dr. Guenot co-founded Maverick with MPM Capital founder Luke Evnin, Ph.D., and Patrick Baeuerle, Ph.D., a cancer immunologist whose research has focused on T-cell redirection. Before joining MPM’s investment team, Dr. Baeuerle spearheaded the development of Amgen’s marketed bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibody Blincyto® (blinatumomab).

Under the collaboration, Takeda agreed to pay Maverick an up-front option, equity, and R&D funding payments. Takeda also gains the exclusive right to purchase Maverick after 5 years for an undisclosed sum.

A “key element” of the deal, the companies said, is a $23 million Series B financing in which Takeda joined MPM’s BioVentures 2014 and the UBS Oncology Impact Fund, which is managed by MPM.

Takeda also agreed to add a director to the board of Maverick—whose management team will be led by Hans-Peter Gerber, Ph.D., the company’s president and CSO and previously VP and CSO at Pfizer.

Takeda’s collaboration with Maverick consists of agreements signed through the pharma’s wholly owned, oncology-focused subsidiary, Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

The collaboration is Takeda’s third significant cancer-focused deal this week. Also today, Takeda said it signed a research licensing agreement giving it access to LegoChem Biosciences' proprietary antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology ConjuAll™ for the evaluation of next-generation ADC candidates.

On Monday, Takeda said it plans to acquire Ariad Pharmaceuticals for $5.2 billion, bolstering its oncology offerings with Ariad’s marketed drug Iclusig® (ponatinib) and the non-small-cell cancer (NSCLC) candidate brigatinib, which is now under FDA Priority Review with a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) decision date of April 29.

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