GERMANY – BioNTech and Medigene have formed a multi-target research collaboration to develop T-cell receptor (TCR)-based immunotherapies for cancer treatment.

The partnership will be for three years in its initial stage. Medigene will provide its platform to BioNTech for the development of TCRs against multiple solid tumor targets.

The automated, high-throughput TCR discovery platform can circumvent central tolerance to provide TCRs with higher affinity.

BioNTech will acquire Medigene’s preclinical TCR program, which combines the TCR-4 from the company’s MDG10XX program to act on PRAME with its PD1-41BB switch receptor technology.

In addition, BioNTech will receive an exclusive option to acquire additional existing TCRs in the Medigene discovery pipeline, as well as licenses to the latter’s PD1-41BB switch receptor and precision pairing library.

This has the potential to improve the efficacy of TCR cell therapy and can be implemented in all BioNTech cell therapy programs.

As per the terms of the agreement, Medigene is eligible to receive US$29.5 million (€26 million) from BioNTech as an upfront payment and funding to carry out the research for the duration of the partnership.

Furthermore, BioNTech will be in charge of global development and will have exclusive global commercialization rights to all TCR treatments developed as a result of the collaboration.

While BioNTech has recently been in the spotlight due to its mRNA capabilities, immunotherapies have been a priority for the company in recent years.

The biotech has been investing in cell therapy collaborations for a while, entering a partnership with Crescendo Biologics to develop engineered cell therapies and purchasing Kite’s TCR platform.

Medigene is entitled to up to a million dollars for each program as development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments from BioNTech.

The agreement also includes tiered deferred option payments on global net product sales and royalty payments on products that use at least one licensed technology.

This collaboration with Medigene expands our cell therapy portfolio and TCR discovery capabilities, and further strengthens our ability to be a leader in the rapidly emerging field of engineered cell therapies,” said BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin.

We look forward to working closely with Medigene to develop new treatments which address solid tumors with high unmet medical need,” he added.

In May 2018, Medigene extended the strategic collaboration with Bluebird Bio to develop TCR-T immunotherapies for cancer.

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