Genentech, Xencor Partner on Cytokine Therapeutics

February 6, 2019

In a deal potentially worth up to $460 million, Genentech and Xencor will develop and commercialize novel cytokine therapeutics.

On Feb. 5, 2019, Xencor, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has entered into a research and license agreement with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to develop and commercialize novel interleukin (IL)-15 cytokine therapeutics, including XmAb24306, in a deal worth potentially up to $460 million.

XmAb24306, Xencor's most advanced preclinical cytokine program, is an IL-15/ IL-15 receptor alpha (IL-15Rα) cytokine complex engineered with Xencor's bispecific Fc domain and Xtend Fc technology.

Under the agreement, the companies will co-develop XmAb24306 and other potential IL-15 programs and will share development costs and profits. Genentech will commercialize medicines worldwide, and Xencor has the option to co-promote in the United States. Additionally, the companies will engage in a two-year research program to discover new IL-15 drug candidates, including ones targeted to specific immune cell populations. Genentech will pay Xencor $120 million upfront, and Xencor will be eligible to receive up to $160 million in development milestones for the XmAb24306 program and up to $180 million in development milestones for each new IL-15 drug candidate.

The agreement is subject to customary closing conditions, and the transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

"This partnership with Genentech accelerates our immuno-oncology work by enabling the exploration of novel XmAb24306 combinations with Genentech's leading oncology portfolio and our growing internal pipeline of bispecific antibodies," said Bassil Dahiyat, PhD, president and CEO at Xencor, in a company press release. "A wide-ranging combination strategy will be critical to realize the potential of IL-15 bispecific cytokines such as XmAb24306, so we plan to explore our cytokines with a broad spectrum of leading commercial-stage and investigational cancer therapies."

"We believe cytokine therapy will play an important role in the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including cancer," said James Sabry, MD, PhD, global head of Pharma Partnering, Roche, in the press release. "This collaboration with Xencor will further enhance our understanding of a critical immune activation pathway and may present a potential new way to use the immune system to target cancer."

IL-15 is a highly active cytokine, or immune signaling protein, that when pre-complexed with IL-15Rα will bind to IL-15Rβγ and stimulate the expansion and activation of natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T cells, but with reduced regulatory T-cell activation compared to IL-2, Xencor states. The company's IL-15 bispecific cytokine platform provides a more druggable version of IL-15 with potentially superior tolerability, slower receptor-mediated clearance, and a prolonged half-life, and is intended for development with a wide range of combination agents due to its proposed mechanism of activating tumor-killing immune cells.

Source: Xencor