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Takeda Strikes Potential $1 Billion Oncology Deal with Turnstone

One day after Takeda and Cerevance teamed up to tackle diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the company forged a collaboration worth up to $1 billion with Turnstone Biologics to tackle a number of cancer indications using that company’s vaccinia virus platform.

The two companies will pair up to advance Turnstone’s lead program, RIVAL-01 in multiple cancer studies and will also work together to identify additional novel product candidates based on Turnstone’s vaccinia virus platform for future independent development.

Under terms of the agreement, Takeda will provide Turnstone with $120 million in an upfront payment, as well as near-term milestones and future equity investment. Takeda gains an exclusive worldwide license to co-develop and co-commercialize RIVAL-01 with Turnstone.

Global costs and profit-sharing will be on a 50:50 basis, the companies said. Takeda will also have the right to license select candidates that result from the other studies based on the vaccinia virus platform. If everything hits, Turnstone will be eligible to receive an additional $900 million in potential development, regulatory and commercial milestones across all programs, and receive royalty payments on net sales of each licensed product.

Takeda’s Chris Arendt, head of the company’s oncology drug discovery unit, said the Turnstone platform provides the potential to harness the power of the immune system in unique ways in order to address some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. 

Turnstone’s proprietary vaccinia virus platform has been engineered for enhanced immune-stimulation and tumor cell selectivity, potent oncolysis, and large transgene carrying capacity, according to the company. Lead asset RIVAL-01 consists of the vaccinia virus backbone encoding transgenes for Flt3 ligand, anti-CTLA-4 antibody, and IL-12 cytokine.

The transgenes are designed to be expressed when the vaccinia virus enters and replicates in cancer cells throughout the body. The resulting local production of these therapeutics at the site of tumors add to the inherent oncolytic and microenvironment-modifying properties of the virus, to form a powerful multi-modal attack on the disease, the company said.

Turnstone R&D chief Mike Burges said the company’s platform is “is exquisitely engineered to enhance virus-mediated cancer cell killing and better harness the power of the immune system against tumors.” With RIVAL-01, Burgess said the aims it to deliver “three powerful immune-modulating agents to primary and metastatic tumor sites and limit their expression to the local tumor environment, reducing the potential for systemic toxicity.” The therapy has the potential to drive immune activity in the tumor that is not otherwise achievable, Burgess added in a statement.

Sammy Farah, president, and chief executive officer of New York-based Turnstone, said the collaboration with Takeda will combine the company’s “exciting viral immunotherapy platform” with Takeda’s immuno-oncology research development expertise. The potential medications that can come from this collaboration will have the potential to address critical gaps in the treatment of cancer that exist today, Farah said.

“Importantly, this partnership allows us to co-develop and co-commercialize RIVAL-01 together with Takeda, enabling us to broaden our internal capabilities and expand our viral immunotherapy pipeline, while retaining our ability to independently develop other candidates based on this technology,” Farah said in a statement.

Written by: Alex Keown

Published on: Dec 19, 2019

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