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Check and mate

Celgene thinks Jounce antibodies can treat cancers that checkpoint programs can't

Celgene Corp. is betting that antibodies from Jounce Therapeutics Inc. can treat cancers that are unresponsive to checkpoint inhibitors. An option deal announced July 19 is intended to propel the big biotech into the next wave of immuno-oncology with antibodies against novel targets on Treg cells, tumor-associated macrophages and B cells.

Celgene will pay $225 million up front and make a $36 million equity investment to gain options to lead compound JTX-2011, up to four preclinical programs against undisclosed targets and a preclinical checkpoint inhibitor program.

Celgene CSO Robert Hershberg said most tumor types have a 20-30% response rate to single-agent checkpoint inhibitors, leaving "a glaring gap" for the three-quarters of cancer patients in need of novel checkpoint combinations or novel immune-based therapies.

The hope is that Jounce's antibodies can amplify immune responses or block immunosuppressive activity within the tumor

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