Gilead expands oncology pipeline with rights to Jounce's anti-CCR8 monoclonal antibody

Gilead Sciences announced Tuesday the licensing of exclusive rights to Jounce Therapeutics' JTX-1811 programme, an anti-CCR8 monoclonal antibody designed to selectively deplete immunosuppressive tumour-infiltrating T regulatory (TITR) cells. Under the agreement, Gilead will make an upfront payment of $85 million to Jounce, as well as an equity investment of $35 million, with shares in the latter jumping as much as 54% on the news.

The partnership, slated for closure later this year, calls for Jounce to lead development of JTX-1811 through to investigational new drug (IND) clearance, after which Gilead will take on the sole right to develop the drug. "When JTX-1811 binds to CCR8, it targets TITR cells for depletion by enhanced antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity mechanism," the companies explained. They added that the antibody remains on track for filing an IND application in the first half of 2021.

Along with the upfront payment and investment, Jounce is eligible to receive up to an additional $685 million in clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, plus royalties ranging from the high-single digits to the mid-teens.

Gilead builds out cancer pipeline

William Lee, executive vice president of research at Gilead, remarked "JTX-1811 is complementary to our other oncology candidates and has the potential to be first in a new class of therapies as a treatment for people with both solid tumours and haematological malignancies." Earlier this year, Gilead acquired Forty Seven for approximately $4.9 billion, further boosting the company's presence in immuno-oncology, whilst it has also take equity stakes in Pionyr Immunotherapeutics and Tizona Therapeutics (for related analysis, read ViewPoints: Gilead grows its I/O stable).

Dropped by Bristol Myers Squibb

Last year, Celgene scaled down a 2016 partnership with Jounce worth up to $2.6 billion to develop next-generation immuno-oncology treatments, instead securing worldwide rights to the tumour-associated macrophage candidate JTX-8064 (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Jounce stays optimistic over downsized Celgene partnership). However, Bristol Myers Squibb, which has since acquired Celgene, handed back global rights to JTX-8064 this past June. 

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