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Roche Licensing Biotech Immunotherapies in $1B Deal

Cancer in headline


15 March 2016. The biotechnology company Blueprint Medicines, a developer of cancer treatments based on a patient’s precise genomic make-up, is partnering with the pharmaceutical company Roche on cancer immunotherapies. The agreement gives Roche options to license up to 5 small-molecule, or low molecular-weight therapies, in a deal that could bring Blueprint more than $1 billion if all provisions of the agreement are enacted.

Blueprint Medicines develops cancer therapies that limit the actions of kinases, enzymes supporting cancer growth resulting from genomic mutations. The company’s technology is designed to generate treatments for patients that address their precise genomic alterations, with a library of kinase inhibitors referencing some 200 kinases. Blueprint says these kinase inhibitors can be building blocks for powerful cancer-fighting medications.

Roche is interested in Blueprint’s work with kinases that regulate immune responses, as an alternative approach to recognize and attack cancer cells with the immune system. The Roche-Blueprint partnership, say the companies, aims to develop new ways of enhancing immune responses to cancer cells by targeting these kinases with small molecule drugs, rather than designing new antibodies, the approach used in most immunotherapies. Much of Roche’s current pipeline of new cancer drugs is highly targeted antibodies. This approach, the companies add, can broaden the use of immunotherapies to more types of cancer.

The agreement between the companies is structured largely as a series of options and milestones for 5 of Blueprint’s small-molecule candidates addressing immune-system kinases. Under the deal, Roche gains an option to license from Blueprint each of the 5 candidates, which would trigger an exclusive license for Roche upon successful completion of an early-stage, proof-of-concept clinical study. Up to that point, Blueprint would be responsible for all preclinical and early-stage clinical work.

After exercising the option, Roche will be responsible for subsequent clinical development and commercialization of products from Blueprint’s candidates. The agreement also gives Roche worldwide rights to 3 of the 5 immunotherapy drugs, with Blueprint retaining commercialization rights in the U.S. and Roche gaining the same rights outside the U.S. for the remaining 2 drugs.

The deal gives Blueprint an immediate payment of $45 million, and the eligibility to earn up to $215 million in option and milestone payments at the time Roche licenses the cancer immunotherapy drugs. In addition, Blueprint can earn another $750 million in royalties on sales of products developed under the partnership, as well as further development payments for the 2 drugs where Roche and Blueprint share commercialization responsibilities.

Blueprint in Cambridge, Massachusetts was founded in 2011 by biotechnology industry veterans and entrepreneurs, with backing from venture capital company Third Rock Ventures. The company went public at the end of April 2015.

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