Takeda buys Maverick as T-Cell engager research hots up

Takeda is taking its option to buy the privately held biotech Maverick Therapeutics and its T-Cell engager cancer therapies for $525 million, as research into the technology gathers pace.

San Francisco-based Maverick’s technology is designed to target solid tumours with a T-cell attack that focuses on cancerous tissues while leaving healthy tissue alone.

Standard T-cell engaging therapies are active throughout the body when taken, while Maverick’s are designed to work in the tumour and tissue surrounding it, with T-cell mediated killing only occurring at the site of the cancer.

There is already a T-cell engager approved by the FDA: Amgen’s Blincyto (blinatumomab) is approved for several types of leukaemia, targeting the CD19 antigen present on B cells while also binding with T-cells to encourage them to attack the cancer.

Two biotechs, Janux and Amunix, have also been on fundraisers to develop their T-cell engaging technology, raising $56 million and $117 million respectively.

Takeda began a multi-year collaboration with Maverick in 2017 to develop conditionally active T-cell engager therapies.

As part of the collaboration Takeda got an equity stake in Maverick and an exclusive right to purchase it after five years.

The collaboration is progressing well and Takeda has exercised its option to buy Maverick for a pre-negotiated upfront payment, plus potential development and regulatory milestones payments totalling up to $525 million.

The deal is expected to be finalised in the first quarter of Takeda’s fiscal year 2021, which begins in April, subject to the customary review by US antitrust authorities.

Takeda will obtain Maverick’s T-cell engager COBRA platform, plus a pipeline of cancer drugs including lead candidate TAK-186, which is in phase 1/ 2 development for EGFR-expressing solid tumours.

Another candidate, TAK-286 is expected to enter the clinic early in 2022 for patients with B7H3-expressing solid tumours.

Once the transaction has closed, Maverick employees, including its scientists, will join Takeda’s R&D organisation.

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