Roche adds to pipeline with Poseida, Kiniksa deals


Roche has announced a pair of licensing deals with Poseida Therapeutics and Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals that bolster its pipeline in cancer and inflammatory diseases.

The agreement with Poseida is by far the larger of the two, with Roche paying $110 million upfront to license rights to off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies aimed at haematological cancers, including one targeting BCMA on phase 1 testing and another targeting CD19 and CD20 that is due to start trials in 2023 – known as the tier 1 candidates.

Poseida will carry out development work on the BCMA and CD19/CD20 CAR-Ts through to the end of the phase 1 dose-escalation stage, with the work largely funded by Roche, according to an SEC filing.

The agreement also includes options on two 'tier 2' CAR-Ts targeting BCMA/CD19 and CD70 – and up to six more based on collaborative R&D work.

It's a strategic-level deal that marks a significant increase in Roche's commitment to cell therapies, with another $110 million in near-term milestones along with other payments that could drive the value up towards a sizeable $6 billion, plus tiered royalties in the low double-digit range.

$1.5 billion of the total milestones are tied to the tier 1 candidates, with another  $1.1 billion earmarked for tier 2 and up to $2.9 billion for the collaborative programmes, plus $415 million for a license option for up to three solid tumour programmes.

The deal is the second for Roche in off-the-shelf or 'allogeneic' T cell therapies for cancer in less than a year, coming after it spent $150 million upfront on a five-year T cell receptor (TCR) alliance with Adaptimmune that could be worth up to $3 billion.

The Adaptimmune partnership followed a $2 billion alliance – including $300 million paid upfront – with Adaptive Biotech focusing on TCR therapies for solid tumours. Roche may be a latecomer to the cell therapy category – but it's sparing no expense to build a position within it.

Antibody for prurigo nodularis

Meanwhile, the agreement between Roche's Genentech unit and Kiniksa includes an upfront payment of $80 million plus $20 million within 30 days for global rights to vixarelimab, an antibody targeting oncostatin M receptor beta originated by Biogen.

The antibody is in a phase 2b trial in prurigo nodularis – a rare and highly debilitating skin disease which causes intense itching and which has no approved therapies, although Sanofi has filed its Dupixent (dupilumab) for the indication with a verdict due later in September.

Genentech will focus on developing the drug for fibrotic diseases, said Kiniksa, which is in line for another $600 million in potential backend payments. The biotech said it would invest the money raised from the licensing deal into its other projects, including expanding the indications for Arcalyst (rilonacept), a therapy for recurrent pericarditis.