Gilead follows Roche in hitting immune system suppression

Yesterday’s deal between Gilead and Jounce shows biopharma’s continued interest in T regulatory cells, or Tregs, a relatively poorly understood cell type. It is also, of course, yet another oncology tie-up for Gilead, following deals with Forty Seven, Arcus, Pionyr and Tizona. The latest collaboration focuses on Jounce’s JTX-1811, a preclinical antibody against CCR8, a receptor expressed on intratumoural Tregs. The idea is that targeting CCR8 can deplete specific Tregs – these damp down immune response – eliminating one mechanism cancer uses to evade the immune system. Two years ago Roche paid $81m to buy Tusk Therapeutics, another preclinical player looking at Treg depletion, in its case by hitting CD25 and CD38. A parallel approach to tipping the balance in favour of anti-tumour immunity is to deplete immunosuppressive myeloid cells, and here Gilead already has a presence through the Pionyr deal. Interestingly JTX-1811 did not appear in Jounce’s pipeline when the company was floating in 2017, and no other industry assets appear to be targeting CCR8. The $120m from Gilead could add further confidence after Celgene last year opted out of Jounce’s lead asset, the anti-Icos MAb vopratelimab.

Selected oncology approaches aiming to deplete immunosuppressive cells
Project Company Molecular target Immunosuppressive cell target
Avdoralimab Innate Pharma/Novo Nordisk C5aR Neutrophils & myeloid-derived suppressor cells
TJ210 I-Mab/Morphosys C5aR Neutrophils & myeloid-derived suppressor cells
INB03 Inmune Bio/Xencor Soluble TNF Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
αCD25NIB Roche (ex Tusk) CD25 T regulatory cells
CID-103/ TSK011010  Casi/Roche (ex Tusk) CD38 T regulatory cells
PY314 Pionyr/Gilead Trem2 Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
PY159 Pionyr/Gilead Trem1 Macrophages, neutrophils & myeloid-derived suppressor cells
JTX-1811 Jounce/Gilead CCR8 T regulatory cells
Source: company filings.

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