Issue Date: August 3, 2015
Immuno-oncology Mania Grows
The mania over immuno-oncology reached fever pitch last week with two sizable deals for antibodies against so-called checkpoint proteins, which dampen the immune response to cancer. Sanofi said it will pay Regeneron $640 million to codevelop REGN2810, a PD-1 inhibitor in Phase I studies, and gain access to other immuno-oncology drug candidates. The partners will spend $1 billion to develop drugs that can be used alone or in combination. Sanofi will foot 75% of that bill and kick in another $325 million to support REGN2810. Separately, Merck & Co. is paying $95 million up front and up to $510 million in milestones to acquire cCAM Biotherapeutics. The Israeli firm brings Merck an antibody against the checkpoint protein CEACAM1 that is currently in Phase I studies. Interest in immuno-oncology was underscored when NantKwest, a firm backed by entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong to develop therapies based on immune cells called “natural killer cells,” debuted on the stock market. Initially priced at $25.00 apiece, NantKwest shares surged almost 40% in their first day of trading to value the firm at $2.6 billion, the most ever for a newly public biotech.
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