Gilead takes $300-million equity stake in Tizona

Gilead Sciences on Tuesday announced an investment of $300 million to acquire a 49.9% equity interest in Tizona Therapeutics under a deal that also gives it an exclusive option to buy the remainder of the cancer immunotherapy developer for up to another $1.25 billion in potential option fees and future milestone payments. Daniel O'Day, chief executive at Gilead, said the agreement "adds to the significant progress we've made in the first half of this year in building out a strong and diverse immuno-oncology pipeline."

Tizona plans to initiate a Phase I study of the investigational anti-HLA-G antibody TTX-080 in the third quarter, both as a monotherapy and in combination with other agents in patients with advanced cancers. According to Gilead, the expression pattern of the HLA-G immune checkpoint "often appears distinct from that of PD-(L)1, suggesting potential utility to address tumours that do not respond to current anti-PD-(L)1 treatments and to deepen responses in tumours that are sensitive to anti-PD-(L)1 therapies."

Option to buy

Under the deal, Gilead can exercise its option to acquire the remainder of Tizona following the readout of a Phase Ib study of TTX-080, or earlier, if it decides to do so. Gilead will also provide funding to support Tizona's ongoing R&D to advance its pipeline. Moreover, it has the right to appoint two individuals to Tizona's board upon closing of the transaction, which is expected in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Tizona will spin off its experimental anti-CD39 antibody TTX-030, which is partnered with AbbVie, into a separate entity prior to closing of this latest deal. The AbbVie partnership, reached in early 2019, included a payment of $105 million up front plus an undisclosed equity investment. TTX-030 is not covered under the agreement with Gilead.

Last month Gilead reached a similar arrangement with Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, paying $275 million for a 49.9% equity interest in that company, plus the option to pay another $315 million to acquire the remaining equity and make the start-up eligible for up to $1.15 billion more in milestone payments. At the time, Gilead said Pionyr's Myeloid Tuning therapies, PY159 and PY314, have the potential to treat patients who currently do not benefit from checkpoint inhibitor therapies. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Gilead grows its I/O stable.

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