The German biotech will partner with Genentech, part of the Roche Group, to develop targeted cancer therapies that engage both innate and adaptive immune cells.

Affimed will receive €82M ($96M) upfront from the US giant to develop its immunotherapy ROCK (Redirected Optimized Cell Killing) platform, which uses both natural killer cells and T-cells to target cancer more precisely with specific antibodies. Including milestone payments and royalties, the German company could receive an additional €4.3B ($5B) in the future.

The most advanced candidates currently being developed by Affimed are targeting Hodgkin and CD30+ lymphoma, which have shown promising Phase II results, but they are also developing therapies to target solid tumors. The new collaboration will include further development of the current pipeline, as well as the exploration of a number of undisclosed targets.

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“This collaboration is based on Affimed’s innate immune cell drug discovery and development expertise and our team’s deep understanding of cancer immunology,” commented James Sabry, Global Head of Partnering, Roche, to the media.

“We are incredibly excited to work with Genentech, a leader in oncology with a long history of excellence in the discovery and development of medicines to treat cancer,” added Adi Hoess, Affimed’s CEO.

NK cells are being investigated as an alternative approach to T cell therapies, a route thought to be safer for patients, by other companies including Dutch biotech Glycostem and US-based Nkarta Therapeutics. However, both these companies focus on NK cells alone and not in combination. CAR T-cell companies such as Celyad are also investigating NK cells and their receptors for improving the therapies they are developing.

Affimed was the first German biotech to launch on the NASDAQ in 2014, and news of this partnership saw its shares more than double in value.


Images via Shutterstock

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