Roche and Xencor double down with cytokine deal

Two substantial bispecifics deals in one day confirm that this technology remains one to watch, despite limited progress to date. Hot on the heels of a Merck KGaA and Glaxosmithkline tie up comes news of a Roche and Xencor collaboration, to develop IL-15 targeted therapeutics. A chunky $120m upfront payment buys the Swiss pharma giant worldwide rights to a lead project, the preclinical bispecific XmAb24306, though it seems that most of this cash will have to be ploughed back into the partnership: the two companies will share development costs and profits on this and on any other candidates that emerge from a two-year research programme. XmAb24306 is an IL-15/IL-15Rα cytokine complex that binds to IL-15Rβγ; Xencor believes that the bispecific approach generates more “druggable” versions of IL-15 with potentially better efficacy. There are very few IL-15 projects in the clinic so presumably Xencor is also referring to other cytokine approaches here; indeed the press release notes reduced regulatory T cell activation compared to IL-2. This will all take some time to prove, however; the partners say they intend to trial XmAb24306 and follow-on candidates with a wide-range of Roche’s oncology products, both marketed and experimental.

Selected IL-15 targeting projects in the cancer space 
  Mechanism  Company
Phase I/II    
ALT-803 Mutant IL-15 /IL-15Rα fusion protein   Altor BioScience
BNZ-1 IL-2, IL-9 & IL-15 pegylated peptide Bioniz Therapeutics
NIZ985 IL15 /soluble IL-15Rα dimer  Novartis
RTX-212 4-1BB & IL-15 fusion cell therapy Rubius Therapeutics
AM0015 rhIL-15 Eli Lilly
OXS-C3550 Anti-CD16, CD33 and IL-15 tri-specific scFv recombinant fusion protein conjugate. GT Biopharma
NKTR-255 IL-15Rα-specific agonist  Nektar Therapeutics
Source: EvaluatePharma, company websites. 

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