This license agreement opens new markets to Celyad and its NKR-2 T-cell cancer immunotherapy. In addition to a deal worth up to €282M, Celyad will also receive double digit royalties based on net sales of the licensed product in Japan-based ONO’s territories.
Celyad’s Natural Killer Receptor (NKR) based T-Cell platform targets a wide range of solid and hematological tumors, and is currently in Phase I trials for acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma patients.
Unlike traditional CAR-T cell therapy, which target only one tumor antigen, NK cell receptors enable a single receptor to recognise multiple tumor antigens. The trial is designed to assess the safety and feasibility of NKR-2, with secondary endpoints including clinical activity.
Additional benefits of this approach include the fact that the NKR-2 program does not employ patient pre-conditioning of the immune system, thereby avoiding the toxicities associated with chemotherapy and allowing the immune system to remain intact.
Celyad’s allogeneic platform engineers the T-Cells of healthy donors, that also express TCR Inhibitory Molecules (TIMs), to avoid having the engineered donor cells be rejected by the patient’s normal tissues.
There are significant cost-related benefits to an allogenic platform too, which is the basis for an ‘off-the shelf‘ therapy. As multiple treatments are be made from a single donor, the cost of each dose is lowered.
And whilst this Belgian biotech has had a disappointing quarter for its Cardiology program (as did a few biotechs), its CAR-T work has instead seen encouraging progress. Celyad also holds key patents in the CAR-T field, which was also one of the main reasons why it successfully IPOed on the NASDAQ and raised over $100M.
However, this partnership is the next solid step for other CAR-T biotechs to ‘get back on the horse’, so to speak.