Adaptimmune continues upward trajectory with Astellas allogeneic cell therapy deal

Adaptimmune continued its run of J.P. Morgan news Tuesday, announcing a discovery partnership with Japanese pharma Astellas to develop allogeneic T cell therapies for cancer.

The announcement follows a 200% gain for Adaptimmune Therapeutics plc (NASDAQ:ADAP) Monday after the company reported updated data showing initial responses to its SPEAR T cell therapies across four different solid tumor indications (see “Adaptimmune Rises on Early Promise for SPEAR TCR Cell Therapies in Solid Tumors”).

News of the deal pushed shares up sharply in early trading to a 52-week high of $6 before they settled to close at $4.04, up $0.05.

Adaptimmune and Astellas Pharma Inc. (Tokyo:4503) will co-develop up to three allogeneic T cell therapies, against undisclosed targets, that include engineered TCRs or chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) from Adaptimmune. The partners will use Astellas’ Universal Donor Cell and gene editing platform.

Adaptimmune will receive $50 million up front and up to $7.5 million per year in research funding. If the partners decide to co-develop and co-commercialize a program, they will share costs and profits on a 50:50 basis.

“It is a statement of intent that we want to grow up together,” Adaptimmune CEO Adrian Rawcliffe told BioCentury. “I think that’s highly unusual for a deal at this stage of development.”

If Astellas were to take all three forward alone, Adaptimmune would be eligible for up to $847.5 million in milestone payments, plus royalties. If Adaptimmune were to move the programs forward alone, Astellas would be eligible to receive up to $552.5 million.

Astellas has been building out its cell therapy capabilities in recent years. The pharma acquired its recombinant AAV gene editing platform through its 2018 takeout of Universal Cells Inc. for up to $102.5 million. Adaptimmune had already been working with the company since 2015, when it licensed exclusive rights to the gene editing technology to develop allogeneic T cell therapies. Rawcliffe said the company has since generated data showing stem cells can be both edited with the AAV technology, and differentiated into T cells.

Astellas has two cell therapy programs in its clinical pipeline: ASP7317 to treat dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Stargardt’s disease, and ASP7517, which comprises artificial adjuvant vector cells, for cancer.

It also has recently added gene therapy to its tool kit, acquiring Audentes Therapeutics Inc. for $3 billion in December (see “Astellas Adds New Focus Area via $3B Takeout of Gene Therapy Company Audentes”).

Astellas will fund research through the completion of Phase I testing, at which point the partners will decide whether to move ahead with co-development and co-commercialization of the candidate, or allow the other partner to develop the program independently.

In addition, Astellas has the right to select two additional targets to develop allogeneic T cell therapies alone.

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